Tac­ti­cal vot­ing gives NLD a po­lit­i­cal tsunami

Mizzima Business Weekly - - COMMENTARY -

Myan­mar’s po­lit­i­cal land­scape will not be the same any­more, af­ter Aung San Suu Kyi’s Na­tional League for Democ­racy (NLD) won a land­slide vic­tory, which has now been pop­u­larly dubbed a “po­lit­i­cal tsunami” by keen ob­servers, in­clud­ing Sai Nyunt Lwin, the sec­re­tary gen­eral of the Shan Na­tion­al­i­ties League for Democ­racy (SNLD).

The SNLD, a party rep­re­sent­ing Myan­mar’s largest eth­nic group af­ter the ma­jor­ity Ba­mar, won size­able seats in the na­tion­wide elec­tions, rank­ing fourth in Up­per and Lower Houses – Amyotha and Pyithu Hlut­taw - com­bined, af­ter the Arakan Na­tional Party (ANP), an­other party that did quite well.

Let us pon­der how the prospec­tive change could af­fect the eth­nic po­lit­i­cal par­ties, eth­nic armed or­ga­ni­za­tions (EAOs), and the whole spec­trum of non-Ba­mar eth­nic na­tion­al­i­ties af­ter the change of guard that will take place in Fe­bru­ary next year.

The as­sump­tion be­fore the NLD land­slide was that the eth­nic par­ties would be able to act as a king­maker or as coali­tion part­ners with the NLD forming a coali­tion with ei­ther one or two in­flu­en­tial eth­nic par­ties like SNLD and ANP. But now the whole game plan has to be al­tered and in­stead all will now de­pend solely on Aung San Suu Kyi’s com­mit­ment to na­tional unity.

Eth­nic Par­ties

De­fy­ing the eth­nic par­ties’ calls of not to run can­di­dates in their home states, the NLD won the elec­tions in al­most all the eth­nic states, leav­ing many eth­nic par­ties with­out rep­re­sen­ta­tion, or with just a hand­ful of seats in the na­tional and lo­cal assem­blies.

The fi­nal count pub­lished on 16 Novem­ber, in the Global New Light of Myan­mar for the two best eth­nic par­ties were 13 Pyithu Hlut­taw, 3 Amyotha Hlut­taw, 26 State/Re­gion Hlut­taw for SNLD; and 12 Pyithu Hlut­taw, 10 Amyotha Hlut­taw, 23 State/Re­gion Hlut­taw for ANP. Other than that, PNO and Ta’ang Na­tional Party got 4 seats each in Pyithu and Amyotha Hlut­taw com­bined, and 6 and 7 seats re­spec­tively in State/Re­gion Hlut­taw. All the rest ei­ther didn’t get elected at all or just got one or two seats.

Ac­cord­ing to Reuters, NLD spokesman Win Htein said the party would choose mem­bers of eth­nic par­ties for cab­i­net po­si­tions, in­clud­ing the vice pres­i­dency and would con­sider ap­point­ing nonNLD chief min­is­ters in Shan and Rakhine states.

He added that the NLD would not con­sider a coali­tion with eth­nic par­ties since it has won a land­slide ma­jor­ity.

Many took the NLD ap­proach as be­ing high-handed and ANP chair­man Aye Maung told Reuters:

“I’m scep­ti­cal about their abil­ity to han­dle this peren­nial is­sue with­out the ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion of eth­nic par­ties,” and that if the NLD as­serts con­trol over re­gional gov­ern­ments in eth­nic ar­eas, “it will be just like the sit­u­a­tion un­der the USDP gov­ern­ment.”

Why did eth­nic par­ties fail?

Sadly, the elec­tion losers were not just the regime’s Union Sol­i­dar­ity and De­vel­op­ment Party (USDP) and other as­sorted po­lit­i­cal par­ties, but also the eth­nic bloc as a whole.

Quite a few rea­sons were given why such a land­slide or po­lit­i­cal tsunami hap­pened in eth­nic home­steads. But Sithu Aung Myint, a well-known po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor has made a con­vinc­ing sup­po­si­tion, which in­cluded some of the fol­low­ing points.

The first point was that the eth­nic par­ties’ elec­tion cam­paign is­sues were too gen­eral and not much dif­fer­ent from the NLD, which also lob­bied with the gen­eral theme of fed­er­al­ism and right of self-gov­er­nance. A de­tailed per­sua­sive the­matic ap­proach was not seen dur­ing the cam­paign, eth­nic par­ties were only bank­ing on the fact that the eth­nic pop­u­la­tion would vote for their kind.

The sec­ond point was that ex­cept for the ANP, all the other eth­nic par­ties were too di­vided, which made it hard to unify and or­ga­nize the eth­nic pop­u­la­tion, lead­ing to the spread­ing of votes.

The third point was there were elected eth­nic par­ties from 2010. The older eth­nic par­ties, formed around 1990, tried or of­fered to work with the 2010 eth­nic par­ties to en­ter the 2015 elec­tions as a com­bined, sin­gle party, but were re­jected for most were sat­is­fied with work­ing with the rul­ing party.

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