MON STATE — The Union Election Commission (UEC) has requested that the Arakan National Party (ANP) use the term “ethnic Rakhine” instead of “Rakhine nationality” in their statement to be read on state television in preparation for the by-election campaign, but the ANP has taken issue with the request, according to local sources.
Myanmar’s by-elections will take place on November 3 and the ANP will be running for the constituency of Rathedaung Township in Rakhine State.
U Htun Aung Kyaw, the ANP’s general secretary, told The Irrawaddy that the UEC told his party leaders in Naypyitaw on August 27 that they needed to make the name change.
“They invited us to talk on TV for the by-election campaign. They told us to propose a draft before we announce it on TV but they said we need to take the word ‘nationality’ from the draft, and use ‘ethnic’ instead,” said U Htun Aung Kyaw.
He said that the draft statement has a sentence, the party’s slogan, which states that the party vows to work on development for people of Rakhine nationality and other minor Rakhine ethnic groups.
In another sentence the UEC asked the ANP to refrain from saying they will work to have a federal system based on nationality, he said.
The ANP had no problems with the wording of draft statements they prepared for state television in the 2010 and 2015 election campaigns. Similarly, when they used this same statement, based on party policy, for the 2017 by-elections, there were no problems, according to the party.
However, the UEC has decided to restrict the ANP this time and so party leaders have refused to change it.
“We are Rakhine nationality, aren’t we? Why do they want us to change it to ‘ethnic Rakhine’ now? We told [the UEC] that we can’t accept it as this is our party policy,” said U Htun Aung Kyaw.
U Myint Naing, a spokesperson from the UEC, told The Irrawaddy that they were worried the ANP would use race and religion as a tool for their political gain in the by-election campaign. Therefore, the commission asked for the wording to be changed.
After meeting for negotiations, the UEC and ANP reached an agreement, he said.
However, U Htun Aung Kyaw said that the UEC still wants his party to change the second sentence about working for a federal state based on nationality.
“The UEC told us the sentence was not appropriate [according to] the 2008 Constitution. Therefore, they still want us to change it but we will not,” said Htun Aung Kyaw.
The ANP is a political party mainly working for Rakhine people and it won a total of 45 seats at state and union levels in the 2015 national elections. Rakhine State is the only region where the NLD did not win a majority of votes.