USDP Criticizes Ruling Party's Trips to Minority Areas Ahead of By-Elections

By Htet Naing Zaw 26 October 2018

NAYPYITAW — The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has questioned the honesty of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), citing government leaders’ recent trips to ethnic minority regions with vacant constituencies ahead of the Nov. 3 by-elections.

The government is obliged to serve the interests of the people at all times, not just before an election, said U Nandar Hla Myint, spokesman for the USDP.

“As the by-election is about to be held, government officials go frequently [to ethnic minority areas] and do development work. It is not honest, if you ask my opinion. Only coming frequently and doing [local development work] ahead of a by-election draws criticism,” he said.

“I’ve seen and heard that government officials at the Union, region and state levels have recently visited most of the places where the by-elections will be held and have undertaken development work there, and that chief ministers take immediate action when asked by those constituencies,” he added.

On Oct. 19, State Counselor and NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi visited Kachin State’s Myitkyina Township, where a by-election will be held for a seat in the Union Upper House representing the state’s Constituency 2.

Today she travelled to Chin State’s Kanpetlet Township, where by-elections will be held for both a seat in the Union Lower House and in the local legislature.

“We believe the state counselor’s trip is related to party affairs. She made the visit as a government official. But we believe that the trip is about both government and party affairs because she visited this particular place at this particular time,” U Mana Naing, the USDP candidate of Kanpetlet, told The Irrawaddy.

NLD spokesman U Myo Nyunt denied that the state counselor’s trips were timed to coincide with the election campaign.

“We are doing [the campaign] on our own agenda. There is no connection at all,” he told The Irrawaddy.

But political analyst U Yan Myo Thein also criticized Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s latest trips to ethnic minority constituencies.

“I think it is not appropriate to do that. Leaders will also think the same if they analyze this carefully. What I believe is that [the NLD] should applaud if ethnic parties win in ethnic constituencies,” he said.

Across the country a total of 13 legislative seats — four in the Union Lower House, one in the Union Upper House and eight in regional parliaments — will be up for grabs in the by-elections.

The NLD is contesting all 13 vacant seats, while the USDP is fielding candidates only in constituencies outside ethnic minority regions.

The trips “are good for local people. Their regions will get developed. But in the eyes of the opposition, the ruling party is making full use of its authority for an electoral victory. I hope people can see this correctly,” said U Nandar Hla Myint.

The former USDP government also came under fire when then-President U Thein Sein visited Meiktila in Mandalay Region ahead of the 2015 general elections and said the “Meiktila plain will turn green.” The ambiguous statement made the front page of a state-run newspaper and drew criticism to the USDP, whose party flag is predominantly green.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.