NLD Divided on Party Registration

NLD Divided on Party Registration

(Irrawaddy) On March 29, more than 100 National League for Democracy (NLD) party leaders from across the country will meet at the party’s Rangoon headquarters to discuss whether to register the party under the junta’s election law. Though Aung San Suu Kyi has publicly said she is against her party registering, the party leadership remains divided.

Longtime Suu Kyi supporter Win Tin, 80, who was released in September 2008 after more than 19 years in prison said he would probably retire if the majority decide to register. Khin Maung Swe, 67, a leading party official who spent 14 years in prison supports registration and joining the election even though this means the party must expel Suu Kyi under the junta law. Both spoke to The Irrawaddy on the party’s future.

U Win Tin

Question: Could you give us three specific reasons why you are for or against party registration?

Answer: If we register the party, we have to expel Daw Suu and other detained party leaders. The details of the party registration laws are not clear about whether Daw Suu could rejoin the party after her release and it would be up to the election commission. The second reason is that if we register the party we have to vow to protect the junta’s Constitution, which we have repeatedly said is unacceptable. The third factor is that after registration, we will have to police the “illegal” activities of party members and warn them they will be expelled if they continue those activities. This will guarantee that no one in the party will dare express his ideas at the risk of imprisonment.

Q. What will happen to the NLD if it decides to contest the elections? And what if not?

A: If the NLD decides not to contest the elections, two things can happen. Either the NLD will cease to be a valid and registered party or the regime will outlaw the party, causing it to lose its identity and party flag. The dignity of the party will increase immensely when we show we are not giving in to the junta’s unjust law. We will also have a broader space to operate with the public because we will show that the principles the party stands for are more important than its mere existence.

Q. Can the NLD expect to gain another landslide victory like it did 20 years ago if it decides to contest the election?

A: The 1988 uprising led by students was one of the main causes which gave the NLD a landslide victory in the 1990 elections. Party leaders like U Aung Shwe only got onto the political stage because of the 1988 uprising. In addition, the military was politically quite weak at the time. The situation is totally different now: we are tied up by various laws and if the party contests the election, there is little or no chance for us to win a majority of seats, much less an overwhelming victory.

Q. How do you foresee the post-election scenario in Burma?

A: This election ensures that two major groups will operate in parliament at different levels: one will be composed of military officers and the other members of multiple political parties made up from business cronies like Tay Za backed by junta groups such as the Union Solidarity and Development Association [USDA] and Swan Arr Shin [a government-organized paramilitary group that suppresses political dissidents]. Besides, the three candidates for the Presidency election will be nominated by the military representatives of the bicameral parliament, but we don’t know the procedure for their election [The presidency electoral law will be drawn up later, according to the constitution.] Moreover, the formation of the government will be in the hands of the future President who can appoint either members of parliament or non-elected persons as cabinet ministers. If the president selects members of parliament from a political party, they can’t represent their party in the government because they not only have to resign their parliamentary seats but they also have to refrain from party activities.

 

U Khin Maung Swe

Question: Could you give us three specific reasons why you are for or against party registration?

Answer: If we register the party, we have to expel Daw Suu and other detained party leaders. The details of the party registration laws are not clear about whether Daw Suu could rejoin the party after her release and it would be up to the election commission. The second reason is that if we register the party we have to vow to protect the junta’s Constitution, which we have repeatedly said is unacceptable. The third factor is that after registration, we will have to police the “illegal” activities of party members and warn them they will be expelled if they continue those activities. This will guarantee that no one in the party will dare express his ideas at the risk of imprisonment.

Q. What will happen to the NLD if it decides to contest the elections? And what if not?

A: If the NLD decides not to contest the elections, two things can happen. Either the NLD will cease to be a valid and registered party or the regime will outlaw the party, causing it to lose its identity and party flag. The dignity of the party will increase immensely when we show we are not giving in to the junta’s unjust law. We will also have a broader space to operate with the public because we will show that the principles the party stands for are more important than its mere existence.

Q
. Can the NLD expect to gain another landslide victory like it did 20 years ago if it decides to contest the election?

A: The 1988 uprising led by students was one of the main causes which gave the NLD a landslide victory in the 1990 elections. Party leaders like U Aung Shwe only got onto the political stage because of the 1988 uprising. In addition, the military was politically quite weak at the time. The situation is totally different now: we are tied up by various laws and if the party contests the election, there is little or no chance for us to win a majority of seats, much less an overwhelming victory.

Q. How do you foresee the post-election scenario in Burma?

A: This election ensures that two major groups will operate in parliament at different levels: one will be composed of military officers and the other members of multiple political parties made up from business cronies like Tay Za backed by junta groups such as the Union Solidarity and Development Association [USDA] and Swan Arr Shin [a government-organized paramilitary group that suppresses political dissidents]. Besides, the three candidates for the Presidency election will be nominated by the military representatives of the bicameral parliament, but we don’t know the procedure for their election [The presidency electoral law will be drawn up later, according to the constitution.] Moreover, the formation of the government will be in the hands of the future President who can appoint either members of parliament or non-elected persons as cabinet ministers. If the president selects members of parliament from a political party, they can’t represent their party in the government because they not only have to resign their parliamentary seats but they also have to refrain from party activities.

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