NLD Embarks on Internal Revamp Ahead of 2020 Vote

By San Yamin Aung 5 January 2018

YANGON — The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) plans to implement structural reforms ahead of the 2020 elections, which are expected to be the most fiercely contested in the nation’s history.

At a central committee meeting at the party’s Yangon headquarters on Dec. 30 and 31, the party had reviewed its performance since taking power two years ago and identified a number of shortcomings that need addressing, senior NLD members said.

Monywa Aung Shin, secretary of the NLD’s Central Information Committee, said the party would restructure and reinforce its main institutions—the central, disciplinary and working committees—at all levels.

The reforms will be complete within the first six months of this year, he said.

Since the end of last year, the party has already reformed some of its central working committees including those on information, women, workers, farmers and economic issues, the committee secretary said.

To improve the party’s performance on the ground, four other central working committees would be reformed, including the education and health panels, Monywa Aung Shin said.

At the last nationwide polls in 2015, voters overwhelmingly backed the NLD. But by-elections on April 1, 2017 came as a wake-up call, showing a decline in the public’s faith in the party. The NLD won just nine of the 18 seats it contested, losing most of the races in heavily ethnic areas. The 50 percent win rate was in sharp contrast to its 79 percent victory two years earlier.

In a statement released Dec. 31 after the meeting, the party said it would work hard to win by-elections expected to be held this year to fill seven vacant seats in regional and national parliaments.

The country now has another viable alternative political party founded by activists involved in the student-led 8888 uprising. The main opposition group, the former ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, is also gearing up for 2020, with party leaders touring remote states and recruiting new members, while the ruling NLD has been criticized as disorganized and fractious.

According to Monywa Aung Shin, problems have arisen with party members at the state and division levels, including nepotism, failing to implement orders from headquarters and disputes between cabinet members, lawmakers and the party leadership.

“We must reform to tackle those issues,” he said.

In the statement, the party said it would focus on achieving unity and harmony between the party, government and parliaments.

The party also said it would also work to support internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have been forced to flee armed conflict. Monywa Aung Shin said it would provide resettlement and other humanitarian assistance to IDPs, especially in northern Rakhine state but also in Kachin, Shan and Karenni states.

“The government alone can’t do everything. We will collaborate with NGOs and regional and state chief ministers on this,” he said.

Political analyst Dr. Yan Myo Thein said that while there had been some progress on development and reform, the NLD’s performance had been less than satisfactory.

“To properly implement change, they need to listen to the public more closely,” Dr. Yan Myo Thein said.

NLD senior official and spokesperson U Nyan Win said that in the run-up to 2020 the party would work harder on the weaknesses and problem areas it had identified.

He said the party is also struggling to fill positions in the party left by those who have become MPs, ministers and cabinet members.

“Those past [mistakes] are lessons. We will work more effectively in the future,” U Nyan Win said. “We will try our best to win the [2020] election as we did in 2015.”