People’s Party to Align with Ethnic Political Parties

By Htet Naing Zaw 16 November 2018

NAYPYITAW — U Ko Ko Gyi, one of the leaders of the newly established People’s Party, said the party will align itself with ethnic political parties as its partnership policy.

The politician submitted a list of the party’s central executive committee to the Union Election Commission in Naypyitaw on Thursday. According to him, the party has 23 members on its central executive committee and a strong membership of some 10,000.

“We will maintain friendly alliances with ethnic political parties that we established some 30 years ago. We are also ready to cooperate with other like-minded parties that share the same views with us on democracy and federalism,” said U Ko Ko Gyi.

Dr. Aye Maung, an ethnic Arakanese leader, also said during his trial for high treason and other charges in Sittwe on Monday that he would like to establish alliances with other ethnic parties and Bamar parties like U Ko Ko Gyi’s in order to form a coalition government in the 2020 general elections.

The idea of forming a coalition government has grown following the Nov. 3 by-election in which ethnic parties and the opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won three seats each, although the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) secured seven.

“It is still just an idea. No discussions have been held yet. The fact that democratic groups might form an alliance should be welcomed. It will happen, I think. But the two major parties assume that they can cover the whole country, so they don’t have clear policies regarding party alliances,” said spokesperson U Sai Nyunt Lwin of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy.

Vice chairman of the Lisu National Development Party U La Mar Lay said the party does not want to establish alliances with political parties outside of ethnic regions. But the party is willing to cooperate with a government led by any party for regional and national development, he added.

“We believe that it is impossible to forge alliances because we are a small party. Some have urged us to partner with them, stating that they would give us rights. But it is impossible as the election draws near. Each party has their own greed and we have our own greed,” he said.

The People’s Party still has not considered which particular parties it will partner with but it has firmly decided to work together with like-minded parties, U Ko Ko Gyi told The Irrawaddy.

A third party alliance is likely to materialize but is unlikely to be viable, according to political observers.

“I don’t think a third force alone can win the 2020 election. It will have to partner with either the NLD or USDP. Thinking about it the other way, if either of these two main parties partners with ethnic parties, they will be able to elect the president in the 2020 election,” said former Hsipaw Township Lower House lawmaker and political analyst U Ye Htun.

“Currently, no other party besides the NLD and the USDP with its close ties to the military will be able to elect the president. The USDP will be able to elect the president if it wins 26 percent of the vote and the NLD will need to secure 51 percent of the vote to do so,” he added, referring to the 25 percent of seats reserved for the military party in Parliament under the military-drafted Constitution.

Critics say public support for the NLD government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is declining, as the party failed to realize its campaign promises and bring about tangible changes more than two years into its administration.

“Ensuring equality for ethnic people and establishing a federal Union is the most fundamental part of nation-building. We have to try to walk the walk and not just talk the talk,” said U Ko Ko Gyi.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.