“I have sensed the danger of an ‘elected dictatorship”


Thein Nyunt campaigning recently in Yangon. (PHOTO:- Myanmar Now/Htet Khaung Lin)

Thein Nyunt campaigning recently in Yangon. (PHOTO:- Myanmar Now/Htet Khaung Lin) 

Thein Nyunt, chairman of the New National Democracy Party, is a well-known MP in the Lower House of parliament. He was an elected candidate of Thinganggyun Township constituency, Yangon, in 1990 election, but the junta refused the honour the election results.

When his former party the National League for Democracy (NLD) boycotted 2010 General Election, he founded the National Democratic Force to contest the elections and won in Thinganggyun.

He then established the New National Democracy Party. In a recent interview with Myanmar Now, Thein Nyunt discussed his future plans, expectations for constitutional amendments and possible troubles for the NLD beyond the Nov. 8 elections. The following is an excerpt of his interview.

Question: Some people said you won a parliamentary seat in 2010 General Election because NLD did not contest. How can you win the seat in the upcoming election?

Answer: (Aung San Suu Kyi) urged a ‘No Vote’ in the 2010 elections without NLD. But I won more than 50 percent of the vote in that election. In the upcoming elections, the NLD becomes my opponent. I trust on the voters in my constituency. And they also believe me as I promote their lives. They believe they will firmly support me.

Q: Online surveys have found that voters in Thingangyun Township will vote for the NLD.

A: I am doubtful about these surveys. People on ground have said to reporters they will vote for me as I have fulfilled many development programmes for them. Online surveys were systematically created to lobby for the NLD. I am confident myself. So I did not advertise myself in any media as we have limited finance. If you asked NLD supporters, they will reply their support to this party.  But when you asked people from slum areas where I helped, you will know the result ahead of November 8 elections.

Q: What is your reason to contest the 2010 and 2015 elections?

A: We have already understood it is hard to amend 2008 State Constitution. So, I will try for democracy and human rights for the people through every possible means. A woman politician (Aung San Suu Kyi) said she urged the public not to cast their vote as her party did not contest the elections in 2010. This caused a blow to the opposition groups from the USDP. But due to clear decision of voters in Thinganggyun Township, I won in that election.

I could help these people inside or outside parliament through development programmes and rule of law. As I am satisfied with these works, I could leave politics now. But I have sensed the danger of an 'elected dictatorship.’  This is an undesirable situation for the country during the democratic transition period. It should be prevented in parliament. If everybody wants to become the President and wants to form a government, then the essence of democracy would be wiped out. Democracy is a system of diverse views and opinions. For a better democracy, a strong opposition group will be needed.

Q: Will you continue as an opposition if NLD wins in the elections?

A: I will remain as an opposition MP against the USDP or NLD, or even they create a coalition government.  I will try to form an alliance of opposition groups which have a common stance on national reconciliation, democracy and human rights. To do so, we need to amend political party law.

Q: You used to be very active in parliament. But we have found a decline in your queries, proposals, submission of bills and discussions beginning late 2013. Why is it so?

A: I continuously submitted the problems and difficulties of people. But when I became better known, some jealous group tried to block my popularity in the parliament. During the earlier sessions of this parliament, about 70 percent of my questions were allowed to be presented to the parliament. Since the 7th regular session of the parliament, only 50 percent of my questions were agreed for discussion. So I changed my questions into a category of unstarred ones which are not publicly discussed in the parliament. On the other hand, the right of discussion on proposals depends on the speaker of parliament. For example, I submitted a proposal in the 4th regular session to allow formation of student unions. But the speaker did not agree it for discussion. Therefore, I focused on the bills which are unavoidably discussed in parliament.

Q: How will you cooperate with the NLD if it forms a government?

A: It is too late to discuss cooperation. Agreement for collaboration with either the ruling party or the opposition party has to be made ahead of elections. The NLD did not offer this, they have chosen ‘total eradication’ in politics. No matter if they could or could not form a government, they will face many political and economic problems. Whatever the result comes out in 2015 General Election, I will try to organize an allied group to nurture new generations who are not affiliated with the NLD or USDP, to create a pragmatic Myanmar political scenario.

Q: What will you do more to try and bring constitution amendments?

A: The 12th regular session of parliament that approved a plan to amend the State Constitution was just a boast.  I do not want people to get their hopes up. So I will continue trying to ensure the respective rights for the people in line with the existing constitution. Constitution amendment is just concerned with national reconciliation, not with the parliament. If the nationwide peace can be granted, the military will focus on the charter amendment. The Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement has been signed on October by the eight ethnic armed groups. They will then hold dialogues on political frameworks, and discussions on the constitution amendment. This is a practical trend. But any campaign promise on constitution amendment is just a boast. Such politicians need to take responsibility for their promises.

Q: There are four favourites to become the next president. Who do you prefer?

A:  I do not want to comment on all these four persons, but just two of them. I will not support the two persons (Shwe Mann and Aung San Suu Kyi) who said they want to become a president two years ago. Myanmar’s constitution is not like that of the United States. Without digesting Myanmar’s Constitution, they should not say their desire to become the state’s president. The Lower House (Pyithu Hluttaw), the Upper House (Amyotha Hluttaw), and the military representatives will elect a presidential candidate each. Out of these presidential candidates, only one will be elected for the state’s president. I will never vote for such greedy persons to become the state’s president before passing these steps.

Q: What are your plans beyond the 2015 election?

A: A strong opposition groups will be needed in the parliament whether USDP or NLD forms a government. I will stand for this. I have said since 2010 that I am not thirsty for power, that is why I have remained as an opposition force in the parliament until now.

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