NUP to contest looming by-election

Burma’s once military-aligned National Unity Party will field around 20 candidates in the upcoming by-elections, originally slated for this month, as it looks to build on its presence in parliament.

The party’s spokesperson, Han Shwe, told DVB that work was already underway to seek out the constituencies where it will gain most support.

“We have looked for vacant constituencies in different townships and [administration regions] and made a study on demographics, our canvassing strength and the number of votes won [in the past] in particular areas,” he said, adding that party officials would also monitor public opinion on rival parties in competing constituencies.

Despite being one of the more prominent parties competing in the national elections last year, the first Burma had held in two decades, the NUP managed to secure only 65 seats from 999 candidates fielded.

This marked a significant fall from glory for the party, formed in 1988 out of former dictator Ne Win’s Burma Socialist Programme Party, that came second in the 1990 elections after Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.

Against the might of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), led by President Thein Sein and formed only months prior to the November 2010 poll, few parties stood much chance of gaining any leverage in the country’s new political arena.

The USDP ended up claiming more than 80 percent of the vote, and its members dominate parliament, implicitly aided by the nearly 350 military officials who were automatically awarded seats prior to the polls.

But still, with 48 seats up for grabs, Han Shwe thinks another stab could alter the picture. Exactly when the by-elections will be is unclear, however, and this is affecting the party’s plans.

“Now it is already November so we can assume it might not happen this month – also, there are new parties registering. We will enter the by-elections if it is announced [in advance] and we are given enough time to prepare,” he said.

The involvement of the opposition NLD remains the key question on everyone’s mind. Suu Kyi is believed to be in favour of re-registering the party following its dissolution earlier this year, but veteran founding member Win Tin is wary. He told DVB last week: “I don’t think it is really good to go into parliament.”

They are due to make a decision on 18 November, suggesting the by-elections will not take place in the coming weeks.

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