As Arakan League for Democ­racy looks to re­con­sti­tute, some for­mer mem­bers opt to stay be­hind with ANP

The Myanmar Times - - News - NYAN LYNN AUNG nyan­lin­aung@mm­times.com

THE brief pe­riod of Rakhine eth­nic po­lit­i­cal unity ap­pears to be over. De­spite – or per­haps in part be­cause of – its rel­a­tive elec­toral suc­cess in last Novem­ber’s elec­tion, the Arakan Na­tional Party now faces a for­mal split along the fac­tional lines of the two co­found­ing eth­nic par­ties.

With their for­mer col­leagues sound­ing a ral­ly­ing call for the es­tab­lish­ment of a new party, the only three mem­bers of the for­mer ALD fac­tion to have net­ted seats in the last elec­tion are firmly stay­ing put, loyal to the ANP.

Forged two years ago from a merger be­tween the Rakhine Na­tion­al­i­ties De­vel­op­ment Party (RNDP) and the Arakan League for Democ­racy (ALD), the ANP has since strug­gled to main­tain co­he­sion, es­pe­cially due to the wide­spread per­cep­tion that the RNDP acts as the se­nior part­ner.

In the Novem­ber 2015 elec­tion, the ANP won 22 of the 34 seats in the Rakhine State par­lia­ment, the only eth­nic party to make much head­way against the Na­tional League for Democ­racy jug­ger­naut in the rest of the coun­try. The ANP promptly de­manded the right to con­trol the state cab­i­net ap­point­ments, a de­mand that was ig­nored as an NLD mem­ber, U Nyi Pu, was es­tab­lished as chief min­is­ter of Rakhine State.

The ALD fac­tion within the party, his­tor­i­cally closer to the NLD, re­fused to toe the party line of op­pos­ing the new rul­ing party at the state and na­tional level.

The cracks within the ANP have deep­ened since, said Pyithu Hlut­taw MP U Pe Than (ANP; Mye­bon), a for­mer mem­ber of the ALD cen­tral com­mit­tee. Six months ago, the ANP ex­pelled six se­nior of­fi­cials for hold­ing an unau­tho­rised press con­fer­ence.

On Septem­ber 11, mem­bers of the for­mer ALD fac­tion as­sem­bled in Yan­gon to dis­cuss a sep­a­ra­tion plan. Their for­mer al­lies are not sorry to see them go.

U Pe Than, one of the three for­mer ALD mem­bers to have won a seat, said it was bet­ter for the ousted mem­bers to form a new party than to con­tinue the wran­gling within the ANP. “I don’t think a sec­ond party will be strong enough to chal­lenge the ANP,” he said. As his for­mer ALD col­leagues depart, U Pe Than will hold rank and re­tain his seat.

U Khine Kaung San, founder of the Sit­twe-based Wan-Lark De­vel­op­ment Foun­da­tion, said the split should not be con­sid­ered a se­ces­sion from the ANP, as the for­mer ALD mem­bers had al­ready been ex­pelled.

“I think there is wrong on both sides. The ALD fac­tion should not have bro­ken party rules, and the RNDP side should not have been so quick to ex­pel them,” he said.

U Myo Kyaw, a se­nior ALD mem­ber, said the two camps were not see­ing eye to eye on pol­icy any more and the ALD would meet to choose a leader within the next month.

ANP sec­re­tary U Tun Aung Kyaw said the party would re­tain its name, which had been ap­proved by the elec­tion com­mis­sion. He saw no ob­jec­tion to the new party call­ing it­self the ALD again. “Some MPs might wish to change their party af­fil­i­a­tion, though that might not go down well with their con­stituents,” he said.

Daw Htu May, an Amyotha Hlut­taw law­maker and also a for­mer ALD mem­ber, told The Myan­mar Times that she did not want to give any com­ment about the party spilt, ex­cept to say that she will re­main a mem­ber of the ANP.

Ac­cord­ing to the elec­tion com­mis­sion, any ap­pli­ca­tion to change the party’s name would have to be con­sid­ered in light of the elec­toral law. “We have re­ceived no such ap­pli­ca­tion, and so can­not com­ment fur­ther,” said a com­mis­sion spokesper­son.

ANP chair U Aye Maung said the dis­sent had given the im­pres­sion to the Rakhine pub­lic of a di­vided party. “We have to take a con­sis­tent stand,” he said.

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