NLD Departures Expose Rift Over Candidate List

By Moe Myint 27 August 2015

RANGOON — At least 41 members of Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), have been expelled over the last month, officials confirmed, revealing discord among the party’s leadership closing in on a landmark election.

Several of those dismissed cited reasons including “causing dissent” within the party. NLD spokesperson Nyan Win confirmed that a number of members had been removed but declined to elaborate, remarking only that, “I don’t know how many.”

Members of NLD chapters in Pakokku, Hlegu and Meiktila have been expelled, he confirmed, but declined to offer an official reason.

Ten members of the Pakokku chapter of the NLD were dismissed earlier this month, including five central committee members, after participating in a protest against the party’s candidate selection. The final list of nominees controversially excluded prominent members of the 88 Generation pro-democracy activist movement, as well as other public figures who were expected to make the cut.

Twenty-one members were similarly purged from the party in Hlegu, while another 10 were cut in Meiktila, NLD sources have confirmed. The reasons for their expulsion are still unclear.

Kyaw Thein, a former central committee member for the Mektila chapter until his sudden dismissal a few weeks ago, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that he and five other central committee seatholders along with four rank-and-file members were kicked out of the party with no advance warning.

“They accused us of wanting to cause dissent,” he said, adding that he and several others are now planning to contest as independents in the upcoming election.

Other recent departures from the NLD, which is widely expected to fare well in the Nov. 8 vote, have also opted to compete against them. Two former senior members of the NLD in Karen State joined the Karen National Party (KNP), just in time to meet the deadline for candidacy rosters, KNP general secretary Mann Kyaw Nyein confirmed on Thursday.

In response to the defectors, NLD central committee member Nan Khin Htwe Myint told The Irrawaddy that the party stands by its decision and that the two ex-members’ acted unprofessionally by joining another ticket.

“Our decision was not wrong, and their attitude was the worst I have ever encountered in politics,” she said.

Disagreements seem to have spilled beyond the party’s leadership, as reports have begun to surface that members are leaving the party in droves. Chief of the NLD in Sagaing Division’s Khandi District, Sae Sae Naung, confirmed that 375 people abandoned the chapter because they felt the leadership was overlooking their concerns about who should contest.

In Irrawaddy Division, Pathein District NLD chairman Than Ngwe said his office had received nearly 2,000 complaint letters from disappointed members, some of them warning that they plan to switch allegiances. The vast majority of complaints were related to the party’s choice of candidates, he said.

About 180 of the division’s disillusioned opposition members have officially resigned from the party, the chairman said, urging others to stay put.

“I am also trying to do my best,” he said, “and explain to many people that they need to be patient.”