NDF to Contest 400 Seats in Nationwide 2015 Poll

By San Yamin Aung 22 April 2015

RANGOON — Burma’s National Democratic Force (NDF) party says it is prepared to field about 400 candidates in regional and Union-level races during the nationwide parliamentary elections due late this year.

Khin Maung Swe, chairman of the NDF, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the party would contest about 200 races in the Union Parliament, where 498 seats are up for grabs in early November. Another 200 candidates or so will enter state and regional parliamentary races, where about 660 seats will be put to a vote nationwide.

“We will run in constituencies in 11 states and divisions, excluding Kayah [Karenni], Arakan and Chin states,” he said.

Khin Maung Swe said that the party’s township offices are sending lists of nominees, with about 140 candidates already selected to run for Union Parliament seats.

“The candidates list will be finalized on May 16-17, when the party will hold its conference in Yangon [Rangoon],” he said, adding that his party planned for the list to include 20 percent female candidates.

Khin Maung Swe said the party’s membership numbered more than 40,000, and that the NDF had 180 offices nationwide.

The NDF has not put forward a campaign platform yet, he said, but would do so once the election’s campaigning season official begins 60 days before polling day. Its Facebook page says the party “has five major objectives that primarily included transforming Myanmar into a democratic union in which all ethnic nationalities have equal rights and status.”

NDF parliamentarians have been some of the main supporters of a controversial interfaith marriage bill that was submitted to Parliament late last year. Critics of the legislation say the bill creates unnecessary hurdles for Buddhist women seeking to marry a man of a different faith.

Proponents say the bill is needed to safeguard Burma’s majority Buddhist national identity.

The NDF contested 161 seats in Burma’s 2010 general elections, winning 12 seats in the Union Parliament and four seats in state and regional legislatures. In the 2012 by-election, the party fielded candidates in 13 races but did not win any seats in a poll that was dominated by the National League for Democracy (NLD).

The NDF is an offshoot of the NLD, Burma’s largest opposition party. An NLD decision to boycott the 2010 election on the grounds that it would not be a credible poll prompted Khin Maung Swe and other leading NLD members to found the new party to contest the polls, claiming that the election could pave the way for gradual democratic reform in Burma.

In breaking with the NLD, the NDF in 2010 aligned itself with a so-called “third force” movement, the stated aim of which was to steer a middle path between the boycotting NLD and Burma’s former military regime.

The NDF was the third largest party contesting the 2010 election, following the regime-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and the National Unity Party (NUP).

Khin Maung Swe on Wednesday said the party in March had forged another iteration of the third force movement, together with the United Democratic Party (UDP), Phlone-Sqaw Democratic Party and Arakan National Party, in an effort to counterbalance the influence of larger parties in Parliament.