Ethnic Bloc Seeks Election of Regional Chief Ministers

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 28 May 2015

RANGOON — The Nationalities Brotherhood Federation (NBF), an alliance of 20 ethnic minority political parties, is pushing ahead with its demand that the chief ministers of Burma’s states and divisions be elected.

The alliance hopes that regional parliaments will be able to vote for their chief ministers, who are currently appointed by the president.

That would require amending Article 261 of the 2008 Constitution, which grants the president the power to nominate a lawmaker from a state or division’s regional parliament for the job of chief minister. Regional legislatures have little ability to reject the nominee, with the Constitution stating that lawmakers have that right only if “it can clearly be proved that the person concerned does not meet the qualifications of the Chief Minister of the Region or State.”

The NBF issued a declaration early this week calling on the government to amend the provision before the forthcoming nationwide elections in early November.

The question of who selects a regional government’s chief minister is seen as particularly pressing in Burma’s seven states, which are named for the dominant ethnic minority residing within their borders.

The incumbent chief ministers of regions and states are either from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development (USDP) or were appointed from the ranks of the military. While ethnic minority ministers are at the helm of the Kachin, Chin, Karenni, Mon and Shan state governments, the ministers of Karen and Arakan states are both generals.

Naing Ngwe Thein, chairman of the All Mon Region Democracy Party, an NBF member, told The Irrawaddy: “The chief ministers should be local ethnic persons. It is nonsense that they are appointed by the president. All the ethnicities do not like it.”

The NBF plans to contest in 161 townships as well as for what is expected to be 29 ethnic affairs ministerial posts.

Like most ethnic minority groups in Burma, the NBF seeks to see power devolved within a democratic system of federalism.