YANGON—Departing from its approach in 2016, Myanmar’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) said it will consider candidates proposed by ethnic political parties when it forms the new Union, state and regional governments.
The NLD invited and appointed some individual members of ethnic parties to its cabinet in 2016 after its landslide win in the general election the previous year. But the ethnic parties later criticized the NLD for failing to consult their leaders first, saying the appointments should have been made by mutual agreement. The party has kept its long-time ethnic political allies at arm’s length for the past five years, causing a rift between the two sides.
However, after its election landslide in last month’s general election, the NLD’s leaders pledged to work on forming a national unity government with ethnic parties seeking a federal union and an end to the country’s long-running civil war.
“If ethnic political parties propose suitable persons to include in the Union or state and regional governments, we will consider them and enter negotiations,” ruling party spokesperson Dr. Myo Nyunt told local reporters after the NLD’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting in Naypyitaw on Saturday, the first since the election.
The party also announced the formation of a working group consisting of three senior leaders: Dr. Aung Moe Nyo, the party’s third secretary and Magwe Region chief minister; Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint, a member of the party’s Ethnic Affairs Committee and Karen State chief minister; and Ntung Hka Naw Sam, the chair of the party’s Ethnic Affairs Committee, to lead discussions with ethnic parties.
In its first move to engage with ethnic parties after the election, the party invited 48 ethnic parties to join it in efforts to build a democratic federal union.
“We expect to start talks at the earliest,” Dr. Myo Nyunt told reporters. “A genuine democracy, a federal Union is our destination. We will work to build a Union endowed with democratic rights and equality for all ethnic people,” he added.
The NLD has set ethnic issues and achieving internal peace as the priorities of the incoming government, which will be sworn in this March.
While the party welcomed the informal cessation of fighting between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA) in western Rakhine State since last month, it also stressed the importance of maintaining internal peace and pledged to continue to work for that. Prior to the halt in clashes, the warring parties had fought intensely over the past two years in northern Rakhine State and Chin State’s Paletwa Township, displacing more than 230,000 people since November 2018.
CEC member Dr. Myo Nyunt added that the party has always been open to discussions with the military, if the latter has the will to participate, on the country’s constitutional crisis and establishing of genuine democracy and federalism.
Regarding a proposed amendment to the Constitution’s Article 261 to allow state and regional chief ministers to be elected by local legislatures rather than appointed by the President, the NLD said it will amend the article when the military gives up its allotment of 25 percent of seats in Parliament.
The NLD won 920—or 82 percent—of the total contested seats in the Nov. 8 election. Among the 48 ethnic parties that contested in the states and regions, 17 won seats, with the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) winning the most (42 seats, mostly in Shan State constituencies).
While the NLD won 82 percent of elected seats, the structure of Myanmar’s legislatures, as laid out in the Constitution, reserves 25 percent of seats in every parliament for the military.
Therefore, the NLD’s share of seats in the Union Parliament, where the key legislation is created or amended, will be 62 percent, as the legislature’s 642 seats include 166 held by the military.
The USDP will account for 5 percent (or 33) of the seats in the Union Parliament, while the SNLD will hold 3 percent (15 seats). Ten other parties (two Rakhine parties, two Kachin parties, and one each representing the Ta’ang, Mon, Pa-O, Kayah, Wa and Zomi) will account for around 5 percent (32 seats).
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