Three political parties who stake their appeal on claims to represent the interests of the ethnic Kachin population in northern Burma have agreed to merge, after none of them managed to make much headway at the polls in the country’s 2015 general election.
The Kachin Political Cooperation Committee and central executive committee members from several Kachin ethnic political parties held a meeting at the YMCA hall in Myitkyina, the Kachin State capital, on 13 January, with three of the parties agreeing in principle to unite under one banner.
“It has been a long time that Kachin ethnic political parties have been endeavouring to unite into one. Four parties — the Kachin Democratic Party, Kachin State Democracy Party, Kachin State National Congress for Democracy and Lhaovo National Unity and Development Party — have been trying to do so since 2016,” said Jaw San Naw, the joint-secretary of the KDP.
The three parties that have agreed to merge are the Kachin Democratic Party, Kachin State Democracy Party and Kachin State National Congress for Democracy. The parties will convene another meeting on 20 February to create a new name, flag and emblem.
The Lhaovo National Unity and Development Party expects to continue cooperation with the other Kachin political parties, but it is not yet ready to join the merger.
Jaw San Naw said that the reason for the merger is to unite northern Burma’s diverse ethnic sub-groups and to strengthen Kachin political representation.
During the 2015 general election, the National League for Democracy (NLD) claimed a large majority of seats in Kachin State under Burma’s first-past-the-post system.
In Kachin State, as in many other parts of the country where ethnic minorities form a significant proportion of the electorate, multiple ethnic political parties exist and vie for voters’ favour, leading in some cases to so-called “vote-splitting” that works to the benefit of parties that have national reach and appeal, such as the NLD.
Across the country’s minority-dense regions, several efforts to bring competing ethnic parties together in recognition of this have been made, though few have managed successful mergers to date.