NLD Expels Township-Level Executive Committee Members in Election Controversy Aftermath

By Moe Myint 8 August 2016

RANGOON – Burma’s ruling party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has expelled a dozen township-level central executive committee members in Mandalay Division for reportedly failing to follow rules and regulations during campaigns for the 2015 general election.

The news was relayed by Htun Htun Win, who once had his eye on a Lower House seat, but like all four of the NLD parliamentary candidates contesting in Mandalay’s Yamethin Township, he was defeated in the November race. He added that the township’s vice-chairman for the NLD, Kyaw Than, was among those removed; the township’s NLD chairman, Myo Thein, was already dismissed in November.

Others, including Hla Thaung and Aung Myo Oo—who contested for regional parliamentary seats—also blamed their upset on the practices of the 12-member central executive committee.

Hla Thaung, who contested for Yamethin Constituency (1), went as far as alleging that some of the now-ousted NLD central executive committee members joined rallies of the NLD’s military-backed competitor, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and spread misleading information about their own candidates.

Regional parliamentary candidate Aung Myo Oo said that seven of the township’s central executive committee members reportedly convinced village tract level NLD leaders to oppose their own candidates’ rallies, and collaborate with members of Buddhist ultranationalist group Ma Ba Tha, who were known to support the USDP over the NLD in the country’s election.

In his constituency, Aung Myo Oo says he was banned from campaigning by a local NLD leader, who represented one of an estimated 50 villages that the central executive committee members instructed to give their ballot to other parties.

“At that time, the situation was totally unpleasant. Some villages did not allow me to hold a rally,” he said.

Aung Myo Oo also said that he believed the Yamethin Township central executive committee members’ dissatisfaction began as early as the process of candidate selection made at the NLD national headquarters.

Han Win Naing, one of the ejected central executive committee members, confirmed as much to The Irrawaddy, adding that the discontent was a “long story” which began before the 2015 election.

Before the candidate selection process, Han Win Naing explained that the Yamethin central executive committee had already formed a campaign committee with 15 senior members who they felt could accelerate support for the party in the election. They traveled to many villages to open local NLD offices. However, the senior Yamethin members were shocked when the NLD’s Union-level central executive body in Rangoon did not list them in their selection of local candidates.

“The problem began there. They renewed the committee and members, and then, without any explanation, they cut communication with us,” Han Win Naing said, adding that NLD’s losses in the township could be attributed to that internal division. However, he dismissed accusations made by losing candidates, such as Aung Myo Oo and Hla Thaung, as “attacks.”

Quoting a Burmese proverb, Han Win Naing said that the central executive committee members are “not the kind of men” who would set out to undermine others’ efforts.

In recent months, Aung Myo Oo and Htun Htun Win filed a complaint with the Union Election Commission accusing rival USDP members of exploiting issues of race and religion during the campaign period. The final verdict on the case has not come out yet, but a judge has ordered both sides to present their final arguments to the court on August 11.