RANGOON — As the deadline looms for aspiring political parties to register with Burma’s Union Election Commission (UEC) ahead of the 2015 general election, one applicant has caused a minor commotion on social media after rumors swirled that the party would be comprised of ex-generals and supported by a top advisor to President Thein Sein.
Presidential adviser Nay Zin Latt, who also acts as dean of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a local NGO, confirmed that he had agreed to act as patron of the newly formed National Party, but denied the involvement of any past or present high-ranking military officials within the party’s ranks.
Rather, the party is being organized by hundreds of CSIS alumni and current enrollees from the center who are interested in joining the political arena, he told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.
“The trainees from our center are forming a party and they asked me to guide them, so I will just join for a while,” he said.
The CSIS opened three years ago in Rangoon’s Hlaing Township, and has graduated about 3,000 alumni, Nay Zin Latt said. It offers two-month courses, nine-month diploma programs and master level studies on political management, public administration and business.
Pite Tin, a political columnist who is helping to organize the party, said 60 CSIS former and current enrollees had come together to organize the party. They had asked Nay Zin Latt to help them by acting as patron of the party to offer advice and support for the fledgling political enterprise.
“It has been alleged that ex-generals are included in the party and also [former dictator] Ne Win’s grandson [Aye Ne Win]; many accusations, but those are not true. We have only included two retired military personnel and the majority is from CSIS,” said Pite Tin, himself a CSIS enrollee.
Pite Tin said that the party intended to field about 400 candidates in the election, which is expected in early November. Tens of thousands of people have offered to seek party membership, he claimed, highlighting that the party’s ambitions were still pending registration approval from the UEC.
“We propose to organize a strong and firm party formed of skillful cadres who can effectively operate for the long-term sake of the country rather than just the elections [in the short term],” he said.
The National Party is among 17 new parties that have submitted registration applications to the UEC after the commission last month announced a registration deadline of April 30. If the 17 applications are approved, nearly 90 parties will potentially compete for votes later this year.
“We are just founding a party like others, and we have been the most focused among many new parties. I have no idea why they are attacking us like that instead of welcoming us,” Pite Tin said of social media users who used the online allegations as an opportunity to criticize the military’s continued influence over Burma’s politics.
The rumors prompted The Voice, a Burmese-language daily, to publish a story last week in which Pite Tin was quoted as denying that any former generals were involved in the party’s formation.
“Only if political parties are strong and firm will the military stay away from politics, whereas now they are involved,” Pite Tin said, while adding that he believed the military, Thein Sein’s government and the Parliament were genuine in their stated desire for democratic reform in Burma.