Anger Over NLD Candidate Picks Spills Into Pakokku’s Streets

By Zarni Mann 7 August 2015

MANDALAY — More than 300 people, including members of the National League of Democracy (NLD), staged a demonstration on Friday in Pakokku, Magwe Division, to voice dissatisfaction over the opposition party’s roster of local candidates set to contest Burma’s general election later this year.

Holdings placards and shouting slogans such as “The party’s central committee should listen to locals,” “Please review the candidates’ list,” and “Select candidates who will listen to the desires of locals,” the demonstrators staged a march along the town’s main road.

The protesters said they were unhappy with the four candidates chosen by the NLD’s central committee to contest races in the Union Parliament and regional legislature.

“The central committee neglected the decision and suggestions of the township committee,” said Dr. Aung Than, a member of Pakokku Township’s NLD branch, referring to a local body set up to screen prospective candidates for the four races. “The chosen candidates are not even on the list of suggested candidates from the township committee.”

The defiant party member said local candidates were first chosen by the township committee, which then forwarded the names to the NLD’s headquarters in Rangoon, only to see the central committee ignore its recommendations.

“There are the MPs who participated in the 2012 by-election and new faces [among the NLD central committee’s candidates]. We condemn the decision of the central committee for neglecting the suggestions of the township [committee],” Aung Than said, adding that some local NLD members who successfully contested Burma’s annulled 1990 election and senior members of the party’s branch office were preparing to resign in protest.

The protestors said they would not vote for the NLD in the election due Nov. 8 unless the party reviewed its Pakokku candidates and revised the roster in accordance with the suggestions of the township committee.

“One of the chosen MPs was elected in the 2012 by-election, but he does nothing for the town and he is useless. The other MPs, we don’t even know them,” said Nyein Maung, a resident of Pakokku who joined Friday’s protest.

“We want the NLD to win, but we don’t want to vote for people who have done nothing good for us. If we don’t see the names of NLD members in whom we can trust, we will not vote for the NLD. We will vote for independent candidates,” he added.

The central committee’s selections for Pakokku constituencies are Pike Ko, who will contest for a seat in the Union Parliament’s Lower House, and Upper House hopeful Mya Min Swe, as well as Han Zaw Win and Zin Ni Ni Win, who were selected to compete for Pakokku’s two regional legislative seats.

The NLD has faced criticism since it released lists of nearly all of its candidates over the weekend, with the omission of several well-known names and parliamentary hopefuls, including prominent pro-democracy activist Ko Ko Gyi, leaving some to question the party’s candidate selection process.

Meanwhile in Myingyan and Kyaukse townships in Mandalay Division, as well as Monywa in Sagaing Division and the townships of Yenangyaung, Aunglan and Thayet in Magwe Division, NLD members and local residents also spoke out against the list of party candidates selected by the central committee of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party in their respective constituencies.

“When the township NLD asked us for our suggestions, we told them to choose the individual whom we could rely on, not the one who has been in office since the by-election and done nothing good for the people. But they neglected our suggestion,” said Dr. Soe Naing, an elder from Myingyan.

“This dissatisfaction over the NLD candidate list is happening countrywide,” he claimed. “Since people want change, voters may vote for them because they fall under the NLD name and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. But there will be no benefit or work done when they have to work in the Parliament. If the NLD does not review these cases, it will be the biggest failure in the party’s history.”