Burma political parties eye alliance

Three prominent parties contending Burma’s elections this year have mooted the idea of forming an alliance to increase their joint presence in the new parliament.

The spokesperson for the National Democratic Force (NDF), Khin Maung Swe, said that “democratic parties would rather not compete or face against each other”. The NDF includes former members of the defunct National League for Democracy (NLD), headed by Aung San Suu Kyi.

Included in the alliance will be the Union Democratic Party (UDP) and the Democratic Party. Both belong to the so-called ‘third force’ in Burmese politics, outwardly allied to neither the opposition nor incumbent. The Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), the Rakhine [Arakan] Development Party and other ethnic Mon and Chin parties have also been approached.

“We all agreed to negotiate with each other to avoid gaps and overlaps in the parliament,” Khin Maung Swe continued. “But I think that according to the law we can only settle on a joint action committee before the elections take place.”

Few outside observers appear confident that the country’s first elections in 20 years will be free and fair: the constitution blocks Suu Kyi from participating, and awards around a quarter of parliamentary seats to the military even prior to voting.

Moreover, the 38 parties that have been approved to run will be battling against the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which is headed by current prime minister, Thein Sein, and is widely tipped to assume office.

Phyo Min Thein, head of the UDP, sad that any chances of leverage in the new parliament “would be better if we sit together and find answers whenever a problem arises”.

“We also discussed about [communicating with the Election] Commission. When there are matters to talk about with the Commission regarding the political parties, we will discuss together and raise one voice.”

The NDF was approved to run in the elections last week, after overcoming several registration stages. The US said yesterday however that they remained sceptical of the elections, despite the NDF’s approval.

Accompanying the announcement in Burmese state media that the NDF could compete was an announcement that boundaries for constituencies had been drawn and lists of eligible voters made.

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