ANP in Tense Standoff With NLD Over State Governance

By Moe Myint 20 January 2016

RANGOON — Politicians in western Burma’s Arakan State are butting heads over a forthcoming chief ministerial appointment, as the date draws nearer for the transfer of power to a newly elected government.

The National League for Democracy (NLD), which won a landslide victory in the Nov. 8 nationwide poll, has stated its intention to appoint members from within the party to the top executive posts in all of Burma’s states and divisions.

The announcement was not well received in Arakan State, the only administrative region where an ethnic political party fared better than the NLD. The Arakan National Party (ANP), which won a majority of elected state and Union-level seats representing its constituencies, now vows to stand in firm opposition to the new government if denied the right to form its own state-level administration.

In a statement dated Jan. 19, the ANP announced that it “won’t join any government organization, but stand as an opposition party for the interests of Arakan people,” unless it is granted an exemption and allowed to form its own government.

According to the Constitution, the president has the power to appoint chief ministers, who then appoint most cabinet positions in the state government. Ethnic parties have in the past made concerted efforts to amend the provision, arguing that the current procedures grant too much power to the central government.

Last week, NLD central committee member Nyi Pu met with locals and civil society organizations in the state capital Sittwe, where he faced renewed calls for the party to make an exception for the ANP, as the party won about 67 percent of elected seats in the state legislature.

According to ANP central committee member Khine Pyi Soe, Nyi Pu reiterated the NLD’s position that the ruling party would select the state’s leadership and that the decision came from party chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi.

Tension is expected to mount as new lawmakers assume their seats next month, as the ANP has thus far only become more resolute in its demand. The party stated in its announcement on Tuesday that it would be open to discussions with the NLD should they wish to discuss the formation of the new state government.

Editor’s note: This article was edited at 5:26pm to clarify that the ANP won a majority of elected seats in the state legislature, but does not have a majority due to the appointment of military lawmakers to 25 percent of seats.