One of Burma’s two main pro-government parties, the National Unity Party (NUP) has announced ahead of the 7 November elections that it will field more than 990 candidates and compete in every constituency in the country. Han Shwe, the party’s spokesperson, tells DVB that it will prioritise ethnic areas and that “every party” is competition, including that led by Burma’s prime minister, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
Will you field candidate in ethnic areas and autonomous regions?
In some of them. There is a Naga ethnic autonomous region in Sagaing division and also in Shan state are the Wa, Kokang, Danu and Palaung regions. There are three Naga townships and we are unable to enter one: Lahe township. In Shan state, our party is competing in about 30 out of 55 townships there.
Apparently the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is competing in all over the country. Are they your main competitors?
That depends on locations. You can say they are the strongest party in the whole of the country. However, it wouldn’t be like the USDP will be standing for elections in Shan state with no competition, just because we are not competing there – there are other parties competing in Shan state such as the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, and Palaung, Pa-O, Wa, Kokang and other ethnic-based parties.
Also there are similar parties in Kachin state and in Arakan state and such. So there will be different competition in different regions. But we can say that we and the USDP are two main competitors as these parties are fielding the largest numbers of candidates.
Is the USDP an ally then?
Competition is competition, alliance is alliance. For us for now, there are no alliance parties and all of the parties competing in the election are our competition.
The USDP is led by Prime Minister Thein Sein, who was previously a general in the army, and the party is also joined by General Shwe Mann. The Tatmadaw [Burmese army] has already taken up 25 percent of the parliamentary seats and now the former army generals are competing in the elections for the USDP. What do you say about this?
But they cannot stand in the elections as the Tatmadaw members; they had to resign from the army and check on whether they meet the qualifications to form a party and to become party candidates. In this way, the constitution sees that anyone can stand the elections.
Given that current and former generals are likely to dominate parliament, will it be tough for other parties to compete with the USDP?
It is up to the people to make the decision regardless of who is competing in the election or how many candidates they field. As for our party, we don’t underestimate the people. People in our country have so much experience – this is not the first time they are voting in an election. They have had experience in voting since 1947, before we got independence. Based on this fact, our people know so well who they should vote for and we will happily accept the choice they make.
What are the differences between the 1990 and the 2010 elections? In the 1990 elections, the NUP won only 10 seats, but this time the party has more strength.
There was no constitution in 1990; we only had the election law. But the different thing is that we have the constitution now. The other thing is that in the 1990 elections, we were descendents of the Burmese Socialist Programme Party [BSPP]. The BSPP was in trouble in 1988: it was the worst situation for us to compete in the 1990 elections two years after [the 1988 uprising], and our party had to face off with the people. However, we stood in the elections and accepted the people’s decision. You were right; we only won 10 seats initially and later two more seats, so we had 12 seats in total. But when we look at the vote count, we had over three million votes back then, coming in second after the NLD [National League for Democracy].
Back then, other parties such the renowned party [League for Democracy and Peace] led by U Nu, who kept proclaiming democracy, and the party led by U Aung Gyi [Union National Democracy Party] and the Shan party [SNLD] only won six-figure votes.
There is a 20-year time difference between the 1990 elections and the 2010 elections, which creates circumstances for the people to think with a cool head. Therefore we are hoping there will be much better chances for us this time.
What are your party’s policies? What will you do for the people if you win the elections?
We had released our manifesto in July this year upon entering the elections. We had a 21-step procedure for our work policy which can be summarized into three main points. The first point is that we will be prioritising the building of strong unity among the ethnicities. The second point, in a way, is on the democracy issue – we will make a strong stand on the formation of the democratic transition. Thirdly, we will use a market economy system to initiate our economic procedures that aim for the development of the nation. We will include social dimensions as a factor in making calculations on sharing the wealth after nation’s development and will use a social market economy system.