၂၀၁၅ ေရြးေကာက္ပြဲ Irrawaddy.org

‘In 1988, People Thought Badly of Our Party’

The Irrawaddy speaks with Tun Yi of the National Unity Party, which was originally formed as a ruling junta proxy to contest Burma’s 1990 election.

With more than 90 political parties expected to compete in Burma’s general election on Nov. 8, The Irrawaddy is reaching out to the leadership of the major parties to find out how they plan to contest, which issues they will emphasize and what challenges they face in this crucial election year. In this interview, The Irrawaddy speaks with Tun Yi, central committee member of the National Unity Party (NUP), which was originally formed as a proxy of the then ruling junta to contest Burma’s 1990 general election but has since sought to distance itself from those roots.

What preparations has your party madeahead of the election?

Our party has founded four major committees, focusing on farmers, workers, the youth and women. We have formed a central committee to ensure electoral victory. We have party offices in 306 out of 330 townships in the country. We have instructed them to take long-term and short-term measures to ensure electoral victory. We are favoring women and youths in selecting candidates and we have now selected candidates and have got around 80 female candidates. And we are also seeking party agents [who monitor polling booths on election day] and assistant agents to ensure a free and fair election.

If elected, what issues will you prioritize?

The welfare of the majority is the policy of our party. Farmers living in rural areas and workers are the majority of the country, so we will serve the interests of farmers and workers.

Will you personally contest the upcoming election?

There are 25 CEC [central executive committee] members in our party and they have been urged to contest the election.  But while some are preparing to contest the election, some have to supervise party activities. [Editor’s Note: At the time of interview ahead of the Aug. 14 deadline for candidate submissions, Tun Yi indicated that he was unsure of whether he would contest the election. In the party’s subsequent candidacy filings, Tun Yi registered to contest an Upper House seat in Magwe Division’s No. 7 constituency, encompassing the townships of Thayet, Minhla, Mindon and Kamma.]

Why should people vote for your party?

In 1988, people thought badly of our party. But as time goes by, people gain experiences and most of the people have become aware that we work with integrity and dignity; we are not greedy people and we are competent in discharging our duties. We have always stuck to the party’s positions righteously and I think, and believe, people will want us and support us.

Do you believe the election will be free and fair?

Both political parties and the Union Election Commission [UEC] have made a lot of changes to election laws and bylaws based on their experiences of the 2010 election. Not only local and international observers, but also the media, is invited to monitor the coming election. Considering these things, the coming election can be relatively free and fair, unlike the 2010 election.

Do you trust the UEC to make that happen? 

The [former] election commission chairman did not meet with political parties, not even a single time, before the previous [2010] election. But the [current] election commission chairman frequently meets parties and seeks their input for amending [election] by-laws. Political parties all got together to sign a code of conduct for political parties. For these reasons, I believe the election commission will act righteously.

What, if anything, does your party see as the biggest failing of the current government and the Parliament?

Our party’s policy is that man is the key. [Editor’s Note: This refers to a long-running debate in Burmese politics over whether policies or the individuals who carry them out are paramount in successful nation-building.]

Policies and plans are designed by men. Now we, as a people, want national reconciliation, peace and the stability of the country, and free and fair elections. If everyone works in collaboration, within the legal framework, toward these goals without dividing you and me, we are bound to see progress. If not, and everyone is doing as they please, nothing will happen.

What are your thoughts on the failure to make any real changes to the Constitution earlier this year?

We have two views regarding amendment of the charter. The first is that we don’t accept that the Constitution need not be changed forever. It is extreme [as a belief] to make the Constitution rigid. That being said, because the Constitution is regarded as the source of all the laws and all the laws are related to the Constitution, if the next and further subsequent elected persons were to amend the Constitution as they wished, the country would never see stability. This is our view.

What is your take on peace process?

We are doing our fair share in the peace process. Only if a nationwide ceasefire materializes soon, and an all-inclusive political dialogue is held asthe second phase, will the existing crisis be resolved, I believe.

Which of the two major parties, the Union Solidarity and Development Party [USDP] or the National League for Democracy [NLD], do you think will win the upcoming election? Would you join a coalition with either of them?

It is difficult to say right now. Frankly speaking, we are fielding more than 700 candidates because we think we can win. So do the USDP and NLD. As regards your question, it depends on [the interests of] the people. We have not thought about merging, but we will support and cooperate with any party if it serves the interests of the people.

What will the new post-2015 government look like, in your view? 

The existing Constitution is not about parliamentary democracy. According to the existing Constitution, three groups—the military, the Lower House and the Upper House—will each select a presidential candidate. The party that is strong in both houses of Parliament is likely to win the presidential position. But then, the military should also be taken into account. So it is complicated.

How long do you think the military will continue to play a role in Burma’s politics?

Even Article 436 of the Constitution [guaranteeing an effective military veto over constitutional reform] could not be amended. The military will continue to play a role for a certain period due to the unique situation of the country. We expect that the role of the military will be gradually reduced over the coming years and that we will be able to see 100 percent election [of the legislature] by the people sometime in the future. But we don’t know yet when that will happen.