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‘Four Eights’ political party bid gets name tweak in face of criticism

Ko Ko Gyi, centre, a leading member of the aspirant “Four Eights People’s Party,” speaks during a press conference in Yangon on April 1. (Photo: DVB)

A group of former members of the well-known 88 Generation Peace and Open Society activist group is looking to quell criticism of their attempt to enter electoral politics, planning to refile an application to register as an official political party with a name change.

Originally submitting their bid in December under the name “Four Eights Party,” the organisers have since announced that they will revise the application seeking recognition as the “Four Eights People’s Party.”

The move appeared to be in response to backlash from some participants of the 1988 uprising that made the term “88 Generation” synonymous with one of Burma’s most historic pro-democracy movements.

“[The numerology] 8888 does not belong to any individual or organisation,” 88 Generation member Ko Zarni said in January.

The inspiration for the party, which first filed an application with the Union Election Commission (UEC) late last year, refers to 8 August 1988, widely viewed as the anchoring date for nationwide protests against Burma’s former military regime that rocked the nation three decades ago.

Ko Ko Gyi, a prominent former political prisoner and an organiser of the effort to get the party registered, said the would-be founders held an emergency meeting to discuss party’s name, adding that a decision was made to rebrand in recognition of the criticism levelled against the name initially proposed.

“We will file an application once again on 6 April to the Union Election Commission. We believe that the commission will allow our application,” he said at a press conference on Sunday in Yangon.

Ko Ko Gyi also pushed back against reports that the UEC was considering rejecting the initial “Four Eights Party” application, prompting the name change. Leading members of the proposed political party met with UEC officials on 26 March, but Ko Ko Gyi said the meeting in Naypyidaw was informal and had no bearing on the decision to resubmit the registration bid with an amended name.

“The commission didn’t reject our application. We will try to succeed with our registration on 6 April,” said Ko Ko Gyi.

Speaking to DVB on Monday, Myint Naing, a spokesperson for the UEC, confirmed that the commission met with members of the proposed 8888 party last week and said the controversial name was a topic of conversation.

“We discussed the name. But we didn’t tell them to change the party name,” he said. “Now, they have decided to change the party name and we don’t know yet how they will refile the application.”

More than 90 political parties are officially registered in Burma, but relatively few have had a taste of electoral success. At the last national polls in November 2015, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won nearly 80 percent of elected seats in the national legislature.

By-elections are due this year, and the UEC has stated that it will announce a date for those polls 90 days in advance of Election Day.

A leading member of the aspirant “Four Eights People’s Party,” Ye Naing Aung, said that he was not sure whether the party would contest the upcoming poll, given that its registration status remains in limbo.

“The commission hasn’t yet announced a date for the by-election and also we need to file a [new] application for registration. We don’t know yet what will happen,” he said.