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Arakan nationalists demand control of state parliament

The Arakan National Party (ANP) has said that it will dominate a minority government formed in Burma’s westernmost state and has warned the National League for Democracy not to get in its way.

The ANP came within a whisker of securing a majority in the state parliament at Burma’s general election in November, when it won 23 of the 47 seats in Arakan State’s legislature. The National League for Democracy (NLD) won nine, a weaker showing than in the votes for state and regional parliaments elsewhere.

On Tuesday the ANP announced that it would block Aung San Suu Kyi’s party in the house, if the NLD did not allow it to fulfil its mandate as the state’s most represented party.

“We are open to discussion and if the NLD has no wish to do that, then they can go ahead [with trying to form a government].”

The army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party picked up three seats in the Arakan State legislature, while the military is allotted 12 unelected places.

“We are engaged in politics for the development of our nation and the state. If the NLD does not want to work with us and refuses to speak to us – then we frankly want to say we are going to stand in opposition to an NLD-led government,” the ANP statement read.

Rumours have circled in recent weeks of claims made by NLD party officials in Sittwe, suggesting that they would lead the formation of a fresh government in Arakan State.

The NLD’s Win Htein denied to DVB that the comments had been made.

Nevertheless, the ANP’s Hla Saw rejected the idea of an NLD-dominated Arakan legislature.

“We hoped that the political dialogue that is being widely discussed would take place between the ANP and the NLD. However we are not seeing the same attitude from the NLD. Instead, they have publicly spoken about their intention to form the regional government in Arakan State despite the fact that they only won nine seats in this region and refused to have a political dialogue with our party, which won 23 seats,” Hla Saw said.

“We are saddened and also disappointed.”

The nine Arakan seats won by the NLD in November came in the south of the state and included Taungup, Sanodway [Thandwe] and Gwa Townships, where Suu Kyi visited on her pre-election campaign trail. The ANP outperformed other ethnic parties in seizing the initiative from the NLD in Arakan State. The NLD won 77% of the popular vote nationwide.

The ANP’s success has seen the party continue in its efforts to secure the position of Chief Minister of Arakan State, despite the ballot-box failure of party leader Aye Maung, who has long coveted the post. Suu Kyi, in her self-envisaged position of ‘above the president’ will likely choose the next chief ministers for Burma’s states and regions. The task falls under the remit of the president, an office from which the Nobel laureate is barred.

Last week, it was reported that the NLD government was likely to lead to a cabinet inclusive of the country’s disparate ethnicities and political persuasions. Senior ANP member Aye Thar Aung hopes that despite any tension in the Arakan regional parliament, the party will maintain a positive working relationship with the NLD in Naypyidaw.


“The NLD in regard to forming the government pledged to include skilled and capable ethnic party representatives and individuals based on a principle of national reconciliation,” he said.

“From our point of view, we may work together for democratisation, ethnic rights, internal peace and federal union but may stand separately on certain issues that we can’t agree upon.”


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