Myanmar Regime’s Proxy Political Party Steps up Campaigning

By The Irrawaddy 14 March 2023

The Myanmar military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the first party to register under the junta’s new Political Parties Registration Law, is stepping up its campaigning across the country, while other political parties ponder whether to risk their reputations by registering with the regime’s election body or risk being disbanded by choosing not to register.

USDP leaders left their party headquarters in the capital Naypyitaw over the weekend to meet party members in different parts of the country. USDP chairman U Khin Yi, who has been spreading hate speech and slamming Myanmar’s most popular party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), travelled to Rakhine State in western Myanmar.

USDP chairman U Khin Yi meets first time voters in Yamethin Township, Mandalay Region on February 10, 2023.

Other senior USDP figures – vice-chair U Hla Tun, secretary U Pike Htwe, and central executive committee member U Tin Hlaing Myint – travelled to Magwe Region, a hotbed of resistance against the military regime, while some central executive committee members travelled to Ayeyarwady Region.

In Rakhine, U Khin Yi met around 300 active members and persuaded 80 former members to come back to the party. He also met local charities and held discussions with around 370 young party members, according to the USDP’s Facebook.

Late last month, he also held discussions in Yangon with around 3,200 young people who are not party members.

The USDP team led by vice chairman U Hla Tun that traveled to Magwe met war veteran organizations, social and charitable organizations, and discussed the potential for cooperation, according to the party’s Facebook.

USDP vice-chair U Hla Tun meets party members and charitable organizations in Magwe on March 11, 2023.

In Ayeyarwady Region, USDP central executive committee members met around 300 women and young people. Ayeyarwady has been highlighted by junta boss Min Aung Hlaing as one of the few peaceful and stable areas in Myanmar since the 2021 coup.

The Political Parties Registration Law, which favours the USDP, came into effect in late February. Since then, the USDP has stepped up its campaigning, while donating cash and seeking advice from former leaders of the ultranationalist Buddhist group the Association for Protection of Race and Religion, better known by the Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha, and arming USDP members in Naypyitaw with bamboo sticks, citing their safety as the reason.

Of the over 90 existing political parties in Myanmar, 21 have so far re-registered under the new law with the junta-appointed Union Election Commission (UEC). The majority of them are close to the regime.

USDP general secretary U Thaung Aye meets party members in Mandalay on February 19, 2023.

The NLD has said that the junta-controlled UEC is not legitimate and so the NLD will not contest the regime’s planned poll.

The Political Parties Registration Law requires political parties to re-register with the UEC within two months or face dissolution.

Under the new law, parties contesting elections at the Union level must recruit 100,000 party members within three months, have party offices in half of the country’s 330 townships, have a fund of 100 million kyats, and contest half of all seats up for grabs, requirements that most political parties will find it difficult to meet.