Diverging views on whether or not the National League for Democracy (NLD) party should contest elections in Burma this year appear to be unsettling the party’s central command.
Despite announcing last week that it would not decide whether to register for elections until 29 March, a petition has already been circulated around regional NLD offices urging the party to boycott the polls.
Much of the dilemma focuses on recently unveiled election laws that bar detained NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi from running for office and require her expulsion from the party if it is to participate.
Party spokesperson Khin Maung Swe told DVB that “there has been some conflict between the two opinions but this doesn’t mean our members are splitting”.
“Regarding the registration, we need to keep the party in existence to continue with our work in the future and to be ready as a political stage for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi when she returns in the next six to seven months,” he said.
“Those who favour registration believe that the party must be in existence so that new generations can carry on with the unfinished duties for democracy.”
He said however that those who oppose participation “see that the election laws are unfair and prefer to challenge that.
“This idea is based on the view that democracy cannot be achieved just because of the party’s continuing existence…However, these are just ideas and we will only find out the decision on 29 March.”
One of the main arguments of the pro-boycott lobby within the NLD is that the party’s future is so closely tied to Suu Kyi that her expulsion would render it meaningless.
It is largely down to the daughter of Burma’s independence hero, General Aung San, that Burma has remained on the international community’s agenda, despite attempts by the ruling junta to keep its human rights abuses firmly behind closed doors.
“I personally don’t think that Burmese politics can be complete without Daw Aung San Suu Kyi…” said Aung Soe Myint, a 1990 NLD representative in Bago division.
“There is a lot of credit to give to Aung San Suu Kyi for the NLD’s success. Without her, the NLD wouldn’t be a complete political organisation in Burmese politics.”
Meanwhile, the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) has again reiterated its request to the junta for a meeting with Suu Kyi, who is due to remain under house arrest until November this year.
“We made a request to the junta chairman to allow a meeting between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the CEC,” said fellow party spokesperson Ohn Kyaing, adding that no response had been received so another statement was released on Monday “to let the public know that we had made the request,”
Additional reporting by Naw Noreen