RVISION February 8, 2016

The National League for Democracy dominates both houses of the Union hluttaw but coalition building will be the priority today in some of the 14 state and regional parliaments convening for the first time with members elected last November.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s party swept all seven of the regional assemblies, demolishing the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party in Myanmar’s Bamar-majority heartland. The NLD’s message of change also resonated in the ethnic-minotiry-dominated borderlands of the seven states, but the military’s allocation of 25 percent of seats helped the Tatmadaw-USDP alliance retain control of Shan State while no single party or bloc emerged with a majority in Rakhine or Chin states.

The largest by far of the 14 states and regions, Shan State with its strategic location on the border with China and wealth of natural resources could be considered the greatest prize. With voting cancelled for 14 of 156 seats because of conflict or an absence of government control, the Tatmadaw and the USDP hold a slim majority and probably can also count on the backing of smaller ethnic allies.

Last week’s first sessions of the lower and upper houses in the Union parliament saw the NLD’s choices as Speakers and their deputies nominated unopposed. However, as confirmed yesterday by U Thein Zaw, Manton township MP for the Ta’ang National Party, the selection of Shan State’s Speaker and deputy will come through a vote – unless there is a prior negotiated deal.

“If they cannot negotiate the positions, then it will be a situation of voting,” U Thein Zaw said. He also noted that the USDP won the most elected positions and was in alliance with the military bloc, while the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy and the NLD could also form a minority coalition with more than 20 seats each.

Khun San Lwin, Hopone MP for the Pa-O National Organisation with six seats, said party affiliation was not a priority and the Speaker should be able to follow the rules and lead a team.

U Yan Kyaw, Hopan township MP for the Wa Democratic Party which holds two seats, said, “We have no party obsession. I will be happy if the Speaker is someone who will give priority to smaller parties and the ethnic minorities. I’ll proudly accept whatever party he is from.”

In Chin State, where the NLD won 12 out of a total of 24 seats, a likely coalition would see an agreement with the Zomi Congress for Democracy which took two spots.

However the situation is far more complex in the troubled state of Arakan (Rakhine) where the government stripped the Muslim Rohingya minority of their right to vote last year. The Arakan National Party, a defender of the rights of the Buddhist majority, and an affiliated independent fell one vote short of a majority in the 47-seat state assembly.

The Tatmadaw is the next largest force with 12 seats, while the NLD took nine.

The ANP leadership, meeting at the party headquarters in Akyab (Sittwe) over the weekend, reaffirmed the decision it took on January 19 to play the role of opposition in parliament if the NLD did not give it the possibility of forming the state government.

“It does not mean we are going to be against the NLD on whatever the party does. It means we will oppose the NLD if the party does something wrong for Arakan (Rakhine) State,’’ party secretary U Tun Aung Kyaw said.

However, he also made clear that the ANP preferred that the state’s next chief minister – who is to be appointed by the president – should have a military background and support of the Tatmadaw. He said the state needed strong security protection from the national level following the communal violence that erupted in 2012.

“At the moment the conditions in Arakan (Rakhine) State make it necessary to have the support of the military and its security protection. This might be difficult to get from a civilian government now,’’ U Tun Aung Kyaw said.

Analysts say that how the NLD manages to govern in states where it does not command a parliamentary majority could become an important theme in the peace process where one of the key demands of ethnic armed groups and minority parties is more devolution of power from Nay Pyi Taw.

Last July, the military blocked a proposed constitutional amendment which would grant state parliaments the power to choose chief ministers. However other changes were approved to schedules 2 and 5 of the charter.

These schedules lay out the areas in which the state and region parliaments and governments can legislate and collect taxes. They have been broadened significantly, so that state and region governments can now collect income and commercial tax, grant permits for mining businesses, oversee industrial zones, and approve and manage private schools and hospitals.

In Yangon Region, where the NLD has a strong majority, the party is expected to appoint U Tin Maung Tun from Dagon township as Speaker and U Lin Naing Myint from Kamaryut as deputy speaker.

According to unconfirmed leaks from party sources, U Phyo Min Thein, an NLD MP from Hlegu township, is being considered for the position of chief minister.

Note: Changes have been made, Myanmar Times is not responsible for these.

Source: Myanmar Times