The merger of Burma’s two largest ethnic Arakanese political parties has been given the green light by the Union Election Commission, which granted approval for registration of the Arakan National Party (ANP) on Monday.
The ANP joins the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), which holds 32 seats in Parliament, and the Arakan League for Democracy (ALD), a political party once outlawed by Burma’s former military regime. The merger is more than eight months in the making, with initial discussions between the two sides begun in late May 2013.
“The Election Commission has allowed the merger of the two parties,” said Aye Maung, the current chairman of the RNDP and a lawmaker in Parliament’s Upper House.
“The combining of the political parties is to work strongly for unity among Arakanese both inside and outside of the country,” he said, adding that an ANP conference to be held later this year would invite all Arakanese’s participation.
The new party aims to work for sustainable peace, equality and autonomy in line with ethnic minority groups’ demands, Aye Maung said.
A party conference later this year will select the new ANP leadership, with the current chairmen of the respective parties to lead the new party’s transition in the interim. Aye Tha Aung, the chairman of the ALD, and Aye Maung will guide the transition. Thirty Arakanese leaders, 15 from each party, will be appointed to the ANP’s central executive committee.
“We plan to take at least seven months for the transition period,” said Aye Maung.
During that time, the ANP will launch party activities in Arakan State’s 17 townships as well as other constituencies where significant Arakanese populations reside, including in Rangoon and Irrawaddy divisions and Hpakant in Kachin State.
With recognition of the new party, the RNDP and ALD are officially dissolved as political entities.