RANGOON — Weeks of political wrangling came to a head on Monday morning when about two dozen lawmakers from the Arakan National Party (ANP) walked out on a sitting of the Arakan State legislature in protest of the appointment of a National League for Democracy (NLD) parliamentarian, Nyi Pu, to the state’s chief minister post.
The ANP’s Kyaw Lwin, representing Kyaukphu Township’s constituency No. 1, told The Irrawaddy that the decision was in keeping with a party pledge to act in opposition to the NLD if the party of Aung San Suu Kyi failed to nominate an ANP lawmaker for chief minister. The ANP, which holds 23 seats in the 47-member regional legislature, has made the case that its electoral success last year had earned it the chief minister post.
ANP legislators wore black stickers on their jackets during Monday’s parliamentary session.
“Black is a symbol of sadness, so we affixed it to show that the negligence of the NLD makes us upset,” Kyaw Lwin said.
The Arakan Liberation Party, the political wing of the ethnic armed group known as the Arakan Liberation Army, released a statement on Sunday similarly demanding that the ANP be given the reins of regional governance in Arakan State.
On Thursday, NLD chairwoman Suu Kyi hosted a meeting in Naypyidaw with ANP representatives, discussing the regional leadership quandary among other Arakan State affairs.
There had, apparently, been hope that the ANP’s demand would be met by the NLD, despite the latter’s insistence that it would appoint its members to all 14 chief ministerial slots. A report in Sunday’s state-run Global New Light of Myanmar said the two parties were due to meet “at the end of March,” to discuss the appointment. It was unclear on Monday whether talks would go forward as planned.
State lawmakers have little ability to reject a chief minister nominee, with the Constitution ensuring presidential appointment “unless it can clearly be proved that the person concerned does not meet the qualifications of the Chief Minister of the Region or State.”
Several protests have been staged in Arakan State in recent days, urging the NLD, which on Nov. 8 won large majorities across most of the country but not in Arakan State, to select an ANP chief minister.
During a protest on Sunday in Buthidaung Township, demonstrators held signs with the words “Don’t point to the Constitution,” in reference to the NLD’s assertion that it is constitutionally empowered to choose the nation’s chief ministers. Article 261 of the charter affords this privilege to the president, Suu Kyi confidante Htin Kyaw, who was selected by the party chairwoman this month to serve as her proxy.
Last week, demonstrators in the state capital Sittwe carried signs declaring, “Unwanted governance system.”
Further demonstrations in the state are planned for this week. Suu Kyi reportedly conveyed concern in her Thursday meeting with ANP representatives that the recent protests could jeopardize a fragile transfer of power that culminates at the end of this month.
The chief ministers for 13 of Burma’s 14 states and divisions were announced at sessions of the respective regional legislatures on Monday. All of the posts were filled by NLD lawmakers.