Saturday, August 19, 2017

Wracked by conflicts, Arakan National Party splits again

Amid internal conflicts, the Arakan National Party (ANP) has split again following three years of efforts to unify the party with high hopes of achieving a federal democratic union in Myanmar.

The Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) and Arakan League for Democracy (ALD) merged as the ANP in January 2014 with a goal of representing the interests of the Rakhine people.

“We officially split on July 18, when the Union Election Commission announced that the ALD had won recognition as a political party,” ALD leader U Kyaw Myint told a news conference Tuesday at a Yangon restaurant.

On January 8, former leaders of the ALD announced they wanted to split from the ANP and apply to restore their old party name with the UEC. They cited internal issues and the RNDP’s dominance in the ANP as reasons for the split.

In a media statement released July 25, the ALD said their aims include: to build a federal union system based on democracy, ethnic equality and self-determination reflecting the spirit of Panglong; to promote political, economic, social and education progress for Rakhine’s ethnic groups; to promote stability, security and the rule of law in Rakhine; to promote and protect farmers rights; and to promote workers rights.

“We believe we can move forward to reach our goals through our party’s policies,” said U Kyaw Myint.

Although the ALD and RNDP have different political backgrounds, they dreamt of working together but failed to reach an understanding.

The ANP was founded in 1988 and won 11 seats, making it the third-largest party in the 1990 general election. Under the military dictatorship, the election results failed to win recognition. Sticking to its political stance, the ANP boycotted the 2010 general election as an ally of the National League for Democracy.

As Myanmar’s political landscape changed, the ALD re-registered as a political party with the UEC after the 2012 by-election.

The RNDP was set up before the 2010 general election and was more closely allied with the Union Solidarity and Development Party than with the NLD. It was the third-largest party in parliament after the 2010 general election.

Before the 2015 general election, the two parties merged. The ANP remained the third-largest party in parliament under the leadership of U Aung Maung, the former leader of the RNDP.

However, despite building a strong ethnic party, many internal conflicts could not be solved. The ALD accused the RNDP of dominating the ANP with 27 members on the party Central Executive Committee, while the ANP only had seven members on the CEC.

“We had many issues, for example, with CEC seats and selecting candidates for the 2015 election. We had few representatives on the CEC as well as in parliament,” said U Kyaw Myint.

The ANP holds a majority in the state parliament and is the fourth-largest party in the Union parliament with 12 MPs, including deputy speaker of the Amyotha Hluttaw U Aye Thar Aung, who is a former chair of the ALD.

The ALD also accused the RNDP of placing restrictions on relations with other parties and on taking positions with the government.

On July 17, the ANP expelled party member U Mya Than, who was appointed as a deputy speaker of Rakhine State parliament, because U Mya Than objected to the ANP’s rules and regulations.

U Tun Aung Kyaw, secretary of the ANP, said the party must take action against those who refuse to obey party guidelines.

‘’Currently all MPs in parliament are former RNDP members, no more ALD members,” U Tun Aung Kyaw said.

On July 24, ANP MP Daw Htu May, submitted her resignation from the ANP to join her former party, the ALD, of which she had been a member since 2006.

“Although I have quit the ANP to go back my former party, I want to tell my constituents that I will continue to try my best as a parliamentarian with the support of the ALD,” said Daw Htu May.

However, it is still not known if the three former ALD members in parliament, including U Aye Thar Aung, will remain members of the ANP.

Despite being approved as a political party, the ALD cannot yet form a central executive committee.

“We will have a meeting as soon as possible. Now we have only 20 members,” U Kyaw Myint said.

Even though the two Rakhine parties failed to reach an agreement, both have confidence in the 2020 nationwide election.

“People will have more options to vote for the party they prefer,” said U Kyaw Myint.

Meanwhile, the ANP will hold a party convention in October and recruit new members in a bid to strengthen the party.