RANGOON — Rumblings of discontent have begun to emerge after over a dozen high-profile parliamentary hopefuls were shunned by Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), from running in the upcoming general election.
The NLD released a list of 1,090 candidates to contest in constituencies across the country over the weekend. But the party omitted several prominent would-be candidates, including 88 Generation student leader Ko Ko Gyi and outspoken Rangoon Division lawmaker Nyo Nyo Thin.
Of over a dozen nominations put forward by the 88 Generation group, Pyone Cho was the sole successful candidate. Free speech advocate Nay Phone Latt and women rights activists Susanna Hla Hla Soe and Zin Mar Aung were also prominent inclusions.
The party intends to put forward at least 30 more candidates, predominately in Chin, Arakan and Shan States, before the newly announced August 14 deadline, according to NLD central executive committee member Win Myint.
Nyo Nyo Thin said that since January this year, she was led to believe she would be selected by the NLD, while Ko Ko Gyi told Reuters last month that he aimed to contest the election as an NLD candidate.
“I want to ask them on what criteria they chose the candidates. They should follow the rules they have set on candidate selection,” Nyo Nyo Thin told The Irrawaddy on Sunday.
Generally, the NLD’s selection criteria are based on a given candidate’s qualifications, with priority given to youth, women and people of an ethnic minority background, she explained.
“They have to give me an explanation. They approved my application at township level and now the central committee says no to me,” the lawmaker said.
Of the 1,090 approved NLD candidates, 163, or 15 percent, are women.
The NLD’s selection process has triggered broader discontent within the party, with one snubbed candidate claiming he and several other colleagues had resigned in protest.
Myo Khin, a long-time member of the party from Rangoon Division’s Yankin Township who was not on the list of new candidates, told The Irrawaddy that he had resigned from the party along with 20 fellow party members.
“This is not a problem between old loyalists and new members. If the newcomers are good enough to be MPs, we are more than happy to welcome them,” said the now former NLD member who joined the party in 1988.
“Sadly, many people were not chosen in accordance with the party’s criteria. They have no proper political background or [record of] engagement with the people. They are not qualified to be MPs. I feel sorry for our political colleagues like Ko Ko Gyi and Dr Nyo Nyo Thin. [The party’s] image has been affected,” he said.
NLD spokesperson Nyan Win rejected accusations the party’s selection process was flawed, saying that while he understood the criticism, the issue was an ordinary internal matter.
“All of them, including Ko Ko Gyi and Dr Nyo Nyo Thin, were taken into consideration on fair grounds like other NLD members. They are not included on the list as they were not selected,” he told The Irrawaddy on Monday, adding that he couldn’t state the reasons for their rejection.
When asked about accusations that some candidates were not suitably qualified, the spokesperson said “that’s impossible” and that he hadn’t received any complaints about it.
Ko Ko Gyi was not available for comment on Monday.
Political analyst Yan Myo Thein questioned why the NLD had rejected some candidates held in high esteem by the general public.
“I strongly urge Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders to remove the candidates who should not be on the list and revise with a new one that contains [people] who should be there,” he wrote on his Facebook.
“If they fail to do so, there will be dim hopes for the NLD for a landslide victory in the upcoming election,” he added.