Boycotting Election Would Not be Practical: NLD

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 27 May 2015

RANGOON — Representatives of Burma’s leading opposition party said on Wednesday it will not boycott a highly anticipated general election scheduled for later this year, the latest in the party’s perpetual flip-flop on the issue.

At a press conference in Rangoon, party patron Tin Oo warned that abstaining could cause a confrontation with the current government and would not resolve the opposition’s qualms with the administration.

“We need to be practical. If we don’t join the election, it would seem that we don’t believe in democracy,” Tin Oo said during the event, which was jointly held with the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society.

“Only when we are able to convince the [Burma] Army will we be able to get what we want without confrontation,” he added in reference to amending the country’s 2008 military-drafted Constitution.

Burma’s Union Election Commission announced on Tuesday that “the election will be in November,” following recent speculation over the feasibility of the government’s timeline.

The Commission also said that a constitutional referendum, which was initially set to place in May or June of this year, likely would not happen until after the general election.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said in April that boycotting the election was an “option” if the divisive charter remained unchanged. The NLD central committee has yet to officially announce that it would join the race.

“We will let you know when the UEC announces the exact date of the election,” said central committee member Win Htein, when asked at Wednesday’s conference when the party planned to publicly commit to the polls.

88 Generation leader Min Ko Naing, also present at the conference, said that while his organization did not intend to join the race as a political party, it would remain committed to pushing for charter reform.

“Now is the time for the [Burma Army] to decide,” Min Ko Naing said, referring to whether Burma’s powerful military would agree to constitutional amendments. “It could happen sooner or later, depending on the vision of whoever is in charge of the Army.”

The NLD boycotted Burma’s last general election in 2010, but participated in by-elections two years later that landed the opposition 43 seats in Parliament. Since entering the legislature, the party has made charter reform one of its top priorities.

Last year, the party teamed up with 88 Generation activists to launch a nationwide petition for reform that earned nearly five million signatures. Recommendations for amendments have been made by a parliamentary joint committee, but remain stalled in the Union Parliament.

“We will keep on pushing for constitutional amendment through public participation and non-violence,” Min Ko Naing said. “It may take time but we are not dragging our feet.”

In a joint statement released on Wednesday, the NLD and 88 Generation declared that they shared the democratic goals of a federal union, and are willing to ally with any political organizations that could help them materialize that goal.