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Senior National League for Democracy party official Win Htein has acknowledged that despite efforts to select the best individuals to stand as candidates in the 2015 general election, some have turned out to be “seeds that didn’t sprout” since taking their seats in Parliament last year.
The statement was made during a meeting that brought together NLD members of Parliament, Karen State government officials and executive members of the party’s state, district and township branches in Karen State. The gathering on Tuesday was held in Hpa-an, the Karen State capital and seat of the NLD’s state-level headquarters.
“When I was at the NLD [state] headquarters office, I received many complaints,” said Win Htein, a member of the NLD’s Central Executive Committee. “Some MPs do not go back to their respective constituencies. The locals complained that they have never seen the MPs of their towns. There are some cases where people said, ‘Please urge the MPs to come to us. We want to see them.’”
He continued, “We [the NLD’s central campaign team] are responsible for that. Even though a step-by-step selection process for electoral candidates was carried out, some turned out be ‘seeds that didn’t sprout.’”
Candidate selection was a flashpoint for the NLD in some parts of Burma in the lead-up to the 2015 vote, which brought a wave of party cadres — many without prior experience in politics — into the Union Parliament, as well as state and divisional legislatures. The process was criticised by the members of some NLD chapters as too centralised, allowing for little local input.
Win Htein told those gathered on Tuesday that “MPs must endeavour to know the desires and hardships of the voters, living in their respective constituencies where they were elected, and then work earnestly.”
“There are two ways an MP can do his or her job well: One is related to government-funded projects, such as building roads, schools and hospitals. This is one thing initiated by the state government. The next thing MPs can do is to establish projects that are worth 5 million kyats [$3,680] each to address the needs of their constituencies, utilising a 100 million kyats fund allotted by the Union Parliament,” Win Htein said, referring to an annual development fund allocated to each of Burma’s 330 townships.
The senior NLD official then turned to politics.
“Firm dedication to the projects is a kind of campaigning,” he said. “MPs will gain more trust from the voters. Trust-building is vital to potential success in the 2020 election.”
Tuesday’s meeting also touched on internal challenges facing the party and Burma’s peace process. Win Htein met with members of the party’s youth wing in a separate meeting later in the day to discuss youth policy.
One attendee, a village-tract administrator from Jai village in Hpa-an Township, noted limitations to the NLD’s ability to govern, given constitutional constraints that vest significant power in Burma’s military establishment.
“The NLD is currently the ruling party. However, I do not think the NLD has full authority,” said Tun Wai, the local leader. “You can see the reality that the ruling party cannot exercise full authority. Within the NLD, I want members who really work for people.”