Coveting Chief Minister Post, Arakan Party Eyes Negotiations with NLD

By Moe Myint 16 December 2015

RANGOON — Local parliamentary affairs will be the first priority of the Arakan National Party (ANP) in 2016, central committee member Aye Thar Aung said on Tuesday, with the party hopeful the state’s new chief minister will be drawn from within its ranks.

Emerging as one of Burma’s strongest ethnic political parties after last month’s general election, winning 45 seats across the Union and state legislatures, the ANP has already turned its attention to potential political negotiations with the victorious National League for Democracy (NLD).

Aye Thar Aung said the party had formed a committee to lead dialogue with the NLD, should the latter be open to negotiations, including himself, party chairman Aye Maung, who lost his state seat of Manaung on Nov. 8, and Htun Aung Kyaw.

“From our side, we will focus on the state parliament but we don’t know what the NLD’s approach will be,” Aye Thar Aung told The Irrawaddy following a recent meeting of the ANP’s central committee in Sittwe.

Reluctant to preempt as yet unconfirmed political discussions with the country’s strongest party, Aye Thar Aung declined to give further details on the newly formed committee.

Many Arakanese voters are hopeful that an ANP lawmaker will assume the post of state chief minister, a position appointed by the president according to the country’s 2008 Constitution.

ANP chairman Aye Maung, who some observers had tipped for the role, is ineligible after his election day loss, with the Constitution mandating that chief ministers be selected from within the ranks of state and divisional legislatures.

Some local critics have recently questioned whether the party has an individual adequately suited for the state’s top post—an assessment refuted by Aye Maung.

“I don’t accept that the ANP has no one to nominate as state chief,” he said.

Aye Thar Aung said the party, which claimed 23 of 47 state parliament seats on Nov. 8—just short of a majority in the Arakan State legislature—had not yet held discussions on the matter.

In a meeting with incumbent ethnic lawmakers in Naypyidaw last week, Aung San Suu Kyi said “we need to work together” and stressed the importance of unity in strengthening the country. The NLD chairwoman has pledged to appoint a diverse cabinet that would include ethnic minorities and members of other political parties.