33 Myanmar Political Parties, Mostly With Military Links, Register With Junta

By The Irrawaddy 22 March 2023

Thirty-three parties, mostly with military links, have registered with the junta-appointed Union Election Commission (UEC).

Under January’s junta-drafted Political Parties Registration Law ahead of the regime’s planned election, parties will be dissolved and their assets confiscated if they fail to reregister. The registration deadline is March 28.

Of over 90 parties, the popular National League for Democracy (NLD) and Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) said they reject the process.

Of the parties that have reregistered, eight will run nationally and 25 will run limited campaigns in single regions and states, according to the UEC.

The People’s Party and Union Peace and Unity Party (UPUP) said they would register soon.

Former NLD lawmaker U Sein Win, also known as Maubin Sein Win after his Ayeyarwady Region constituency, has dissolved his National United Democratic Party to merge with the People’s Party led by 88 Generation student leader U Ko Ko Gyi. There are also reports that Daw Sandar Min, who was recently expelled from the NLD, will join the People’s Party.

U Kyaw Zeya, an ex-lieutenant colonel and NLD lawmaker in Yangon Region’s Parliament, founded the UPUP with fellow former NLD lawmakers, after resigning as vice-chairman of the People’s Pioneer Party (PPP) led by junta social welfare minister Daw Thet Thet Khine.

Fourteen of the parties that have registered, including the military-proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), Pa-O National Organization (PNO), Federal Democratic Party, National Unity Party, New National Democracy Party (NNDP), Rakhine State National United Party, Lisu National Development Party and Myanmar Farmers Development Party, were among the 34 parties that met military chief Min Aung Hlaing ahead of the 2020 general election.

The party leaders sought the commander-in-chief’s assurance that he would intervene if voting was deemed unfair. They also called for then UEC chairman U Hla Thein to be replaced, saying they did not trust the NLD appointee.

PNO vice-chairman Khun San Lwin sits on the junta’s governing body, the State Administration Council (SAC). And Dwe Bu, who leads the Kachin State People’s Party, is also a SAC member.

The NNDP is led by U Thein Nyunt, who is a SAC member and was recently promoted to its Central Advisory Body.

The NUP is the successor of the Burma Socialist Programme Party, which ruled the country from 1962 to 1988 under military dictator Ne Win.

The Arakan Front Party is led by Dr. Aye Maung, who was handed a long jail sentence for treason under the NLD government but was pardoned and released by Min Aung Hlaing in 2021.

The Shan Nationalities Democratic Party has reregistered as the Shan and Ethnic Democratic Party. Its chairman Sai Ai Pao received the Thiri Pyanchi title from Min Aung Hlaing. The party split from the SNLD in 2010 to contest the junta-organized general election, after the SNLD boycotted the vote.

The Democratic Party has reregistered as the Federal Democratic Party. Its leaders Daw Than Than Nu and Daw Cho Cho Kyaw Neyin accepted titles on behalf of their fathers from Min Aung Hlaing in January in Naypyitaw. Daw Than Than Nu’s father was U Nu, the first prime minister after independence. Daw Cho Cho Kyaw Nyein’s father was U Kyaw Nyein, U Nu’s deputy.

The United Democratic Party, known as the Rose party because of its logo, was dissolved ahead of the 2020 election after its chairman Michael Kyaw Myint was accused of money laundering, flouting business laws and fleeing a prison sentence handed down under a previous military regime. It has reregistered as the Union Democracy Party.

Most of the parties did not win a seat in 2020, in which the NLD won another landslide.

The new Political Parties Registration Law requires national parties to recruit at least 100,000 members within 90 days of registration, open offices in at least half of Myanmar’s 330 townships within six months and contest at least half of Myanmar’s constituencies, forcing many parties to run in single regions or states and creating a one-horse race for the USDP.

While many parties are struggling to survive, USDP leaders have been traveling to meet party members and attract young voters.

Sai Leik, SNLD general secretary, told The Irrawaddy that the law guarantees the USDP will win and cement military power.

With 25 percent of seats constitutionally guaranteed for military MPs, the USDP only needs to win 26 percent of seats to elect Min Aung Hlaing as president.

In 2020, 87 of 91 registered parties ran and 19 won parliamentary seats but the number of parties likely to contest any junta poll is expected to be far fewer.

The civilian National Unity Government warned this month that registering with the “terrorist” junta gives credence to the killings and takes on the role of a lackey.

Min Aung Hlaing has promised to transfer power to the winner but domestic and international observers doubt that any election will be free or fair.