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UEC approves re-registry of Arakan League for Democracy

Volunteers count votes at a polling station during Burma’s general election in central Rangoon on 8 November 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

Burma’s Union Election Commission has allowed the registration of the Arakan League for Democracy (ALD), re-establishing a political party that was a formidable competitor in national polls 27 years ago but may further fracture ethnic Arakanese political solidarity in future votes.

The ALD won the third-highest number of seats in Burma’s 1990 election — the results of which were ignored by the ruling junta of the time — and later went on to become a member of the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament (CRPP), a coalition of political parties that had won seats in that vote.

“Now that the party has been allowed to register, we are going to organise a central executive committee. … The party will be established with members nationwide. Rakhine [Arakanese] political leaders can join the party,” said the ALD’s leader, Kyaw Myint.

The ALD did not contest the 2010 general election, and in 2013 the party merged with the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) to form the Arakan National Party (ANP).

The ANP was the country’s best-performing ethnic political party in the 2015 general election, winning 10 seats in the Lower House, 12 in the Upper House, and 23 of the 47 seats in the regional assembly of Arakan State.

Its strong showing at the polls masked growing internal divisions among members of the Arakanese party, however, with disputes arising over the party leadership structure and its stance toward the election-winning National League for Democracy.

Prominent members of the ANP include the outspoken Arakanese nationalist Aye Maung, who won a seat in Parliament’s Lower House in the April 2017 by-election, and Aye Thar Aung, deputy speaker of the Upper House. Both are expected to remain with the ANP, despite the latter being a founding member of the original ALD in 1989.

In total, more than 90 political parties have been registered with the Union Election Commission.