The Irrawaddy

USDP Protest Over NLD Party Message in State Counselor’s Speech 

USDP chairman U Than Htay at a party press conference in Naypyidaw in August, 2016. (Photo: Htet Naing Zaw / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has complained that State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s State of the Union address was a party campaign message in disguise.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi delivered a speech on the occasion of the first anniversary of the National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government on March 30, two days before the April 1 by-elections.

USDP spokesperson Dr. Nanda Hla Myint said that the State Counselor referred to the NLD slogan “Time to Change” used during the 2015 election campaign and announced the party’s new slogan—“Together with the People”—during her speech, which was broadcasted and printed in state media just before the by-elections.

“People liked it,” said U Nanda Hla Myint. “It’s like a counterstrike for other opponent parties when the by-elections are near.  The State Counselor campaigned during her speech, which got good feedback.”

The USDP—the military-backed former ruling party now positioned in opposition to the ruling NLD—released a statement on Friday stating that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi campaigned for her party during her address.

The reference, it said, violated Section 232(k) of the 2008 Constitution, which bans Union ministers from taking part in party activities during their term in office, causing the USDP to complain to the Union Election Commission.

The statement said that the ruling party had used the state media to campaign and had also breached the election commission’s announcement that campaigning would be banned from midnight on March 30 to April 1; this is also outlined in the election code of conduct. However, interviews with the NLD secretary U Win Htein and patron U Tin Oo were published on March 31 and April 1.

“On the election ‘silence days,’ their interviews were included in the newspaper along with their party flag,” said Dr. Nanda Hla Myint. “When we were in government, our party never campaigned through state media about the party’s policy and the party’s Union ministers were never involved in the party’s campaigning activities, either.”

There are media reports of former President Thein Sein’s government and USDP Union ministers campaigning using state media and being involved in the party’s campaigning in the 2010 and 2015 general elections.

“Every party should have an equal chance,” said the USDP spokesman. “You shouldn’t be allowed to campaign using the state media because you are the ruling party.”

The NLD won nine out of 18 contested seats in the April 1 by-elections, in which 19 seats were up for grabs, while the USDP won two seats.