The Union Election Commission (UEC) has asked President Thein Sein to support Burma’s political parties by offering land and transport assistance. The UEC proposed grants of government land for office space and the provision of import permits for motor vehicles.
The electoral body, in a letter to the president’s office dated 22 May, proposed to grant each of Burma’s 65 political parties five vehicle import permits. An allotment of government-owned land was also suggested. The action follows a series of requests from smaller political parties, many of which have raised financial concerns to the commission.
One such organisation is the Democratic Party-Myanmar (DPM). Thu Wei, the party chairman, said they had to move three times in 2010 because landowners were afraid to rent to them.
“We will have to move out from our current location in August and are yet to find a new place,” he said. “We also lack transportation and other necessary assistance. Our members have to pay out of pocket to keep the party in operation.”
The Nationalities Brotherhood Federation, an alliance of 15 ethnic political parties, echoed their difficulties. The group’s spokesperson, Saw Than Myint, said the grants, if approved, would be of major assistance to smaller parties.
“We think this would be a great deal of help to non-major and ethnic-based parties, as we are not financially strong and usually don’t get much assistance from cronies like the major parties do,” he said.
“If this does really happen, we would be very grateful to the government because it’s something we really need.”
But all that glitters may not be gold, warned Burma’s largest opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). The party’s central committee member Win Htein said that the NLD has doubts about the UEC’s motives, insinuating that the proposed assistance may spring from something other than genuine goodwill.
Sixty-five political parties are currently registered with the UEC.