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