Sunday, June 25, 2017
The Myanmar Times
The Myanmar Times

Ethnic party angered by NLD’s broken promises on seat-sharing

A leading ethnic politician has accused the National League for Democracy of breaking its promise not to run a candidate against him.

The NLD had said it would not contest seats in which members of the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament (CRPP), formed in 1998 by MPs elected in 1990, were standing for election.

The NLD ignored requests for a broader alliance with ethnic minority parties, fielding candidates in 1138 of 1171 official constituencies. Most of those they have left open are in areas where voting is not expected to take place, such as territory held by the United Wa State Army.

U Aye Thar Aung of the Rakhine National Party was one of only two CRPP members to run, and the NLD has fielded a candidate against him in an Amyotha Hluttaw seat encompassing Minbya and Myebon townships.

He has accused Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her party of “lying” to the RNP and other ethnic political parties about their election plans.

“Daw Suu shouldn’t have said anything if she wasn’t going to keep her promise. She should not give frivolous promises. If she does, the people and her allies will lose trust in the NLD,” he told The Myanmar Times.

He added, “We don’t care about the NLD’s [candidate] list. They will not win in the ethnic constituencies. I believe that the ethnic parties will win in all constituencies of every one of the seven states.”

U Tun Tun Hein, a member of the NLD central executive committee, which signed off on the party’s candidate list, declined to comment.

In July, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told the media the party would consider avoiding parliamentary seats that overlap with those of its allies.

In late July, the NLD and the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy discussed this strategy further, with the NLD agreeing not to contest seats where CRPP members would run for election.

The United Nationalities Alliance, a coalition of ethnic parties that includes the RNP and the SNLD, proposed an alliance with the NLD for the election. However, the NLD did not respond and instead registered candidates in nearly every constituency.

“We never got the chance to discuss an alliance with the NLD. We heard they are facing problems related to their list of candidate and we understand that. But it has created a bad situation between the NLD and the ethnic political parties,” said U Sai Nyunt Lwin, secretary of the SNLD.

Ethnic parties have been particularly angered by the NLD’s decision to contest 29 constituencies for ethnic affairs ministers.

Ethnic groups with more than 52,000 members – 0.1 percent of the total national population – in a single state or region are given representation in that state or region’s government in the form of an ethnic affairs minister.

The ministers are the only directly elected members of government. While most voters fill out three ballots – one each for the upper and lower houses of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw in Nay Pyi Taw, and one for their state or region parliament – members of an eligible ethnic group vote a fourth time, for their ethnic affairs minister, who is also an MP in the regional parliament.

U Aye Thar Aung said he was confident the NLD would lose the seats because it is primarily seen as an ethnic Bamar party.

“I don’t think the NLD can win the seats for ethnic affairs ministers. Ethnic people will only vote for ethnic parties – I believe that,” he said.

The Committee Representing the People’s Parliament (CRPP) was formed after the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) failed to respond to calls to recognise the results of the 1990 elections. Only two members will contest the election: U Aye Thar Aung and Zomi Congress for Democracy chair Pu Chin Sian Thang, who will run in Tiddim township.

The NLD has not registered a candidate to run against Pu Chin Sian Thang.