Alliance calls on major parties to refrain from running in ethnic areas

Alliance calls on major parties to refrain from running in ethnic areas

An alliance comprised of seven ethnic minority affiliated political parties called on Burma’s major parties to refrain from running in ethnic areas during the 2015 general elections.

The Ethnic Nationalities Federation (ENF) said the move would allow for self-determination in the country’s ethnic regions and promote federalism.

The announcement was made during the federation’s meeting in Naypyidaw last weekend.

“We have been calling for federalism,” said ENF spokesperson Saw Than Myint of the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party.

“When every ethnic population is calling for federalism, we believe that we should be allowed self-management and governance authority with our own people in the [local] parliament.”

The spokesperson noted that the announcement was only a suggestion and that it was up to the country’s major political parties to decide whether or not to run in the ethnic areas.

“Everyone who lives in Burma is ethnic and the important thing is to gain support from the people and for that, one needs to address their interests,” said Saw Than Myint.

“I think people will make their choice who to vote for based on the party and the individual running.”

Last November, in an International Crisis Group (ICG)’s report, Myanmar: Storm Clouds on the Horizon, the think tank warned that the domination of a single party in the 2015 general elections would be detrimental to the country and the National League for Democracy (NLD).

Citing the NLD’s landslide victory in the annulled 1990 elections and their decisive finish in 2012’s by-elections, ICG said potential NLD gains in ethnic areas could lead to the further erosion of trust between the Burman majority and the country’s myriad ethnic groups.

“It could also threaten the ethnic peace process, which is predicated on convincing ethnic armed groups that they can effectively pursue their objectives in the political arena – that is, the legislatures – rather than through armed struggle,” said the report.

“In many areas, ethnic parties will find it a challenge to win against the NLD, particularly in the many mixed-ethnicity constituencies where the vote will split along ethnic lines.”

Following 2012’s by-elections, opposition party National Democratic Force announced plans to restructure after losing about half of its members, including parliamentary representatives, who flocked back to the National League for Democracy.

Burma’s parliament is currently dominated by the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which won a majority of the legislature’s seats in the controversial 2010 elections.

The ENF consists of  seven major ethnic parties including: the Chin National Party, All-Mon Region Democracy Party, Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party, Rakhine Nationalities Democratic Party, Kayan [Karenni] National Party, Innthar National Development Party and Shan Nationalities Democratic Party.

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