Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Fears are the ranks of the National League for Democracy (NLD) could fracture following a contentious debate within party leadership on whether the party should re-register or not.
Aung Shwe, Chairman of the main opposition party, reportedly proposed re-registration at a March 15th meeting at party headquarters in Rangoon in order to secure the party’s survival.
However, the debate remains hotly contested as to whether or not Burma’s primary opposition party should re-register with an eye to possible participation in the 2010 elections.
"The party could split into two factions owing to discussion on whether to participate in the election or not. The party should negotiate with the SPDC [Burmese junta] and within party membership as well. I believe the leadership can make a correct decision," said Khin Nyunt Mu, Secretary of the NLD’s Women’s Affairs Working Group in Pegu Division.
All political parties must register with the election commission within 60 days from March 17th according to the recently enacted Political Party Registration Law. At present there are ten political parties remaining from the 1990 general elections, including the NLD.
The NLD has to date reiterated its intent to stand by its Shwegondaing Declaration, which calls on the military junta to release all political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi, a review of the 2008 constitution, recognition of the 1990 general election results and commencement of a dialogue aimed at national reconciliation.
The Declaration echoes ideas debated and agreed upon by political prisoners during the course of the 1990s, which outlined perceived conditions relating to the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Khin Maung Swe, a Central Executive Committee member of the NLD, said the party should re-register, with the envisioned release of Aung San Suu Kyi providing for a readily available base of leadership.
"While we have not yet made clear a decision on whether to join the election or not, it is critical for the party to re-register. If we accept we are united with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, there must be a political party. When she is released she will definitely come to join us," argued Khin Maung Swe.
However, sources close to the NLD said there is a division within the top 20 members of the party’s leadership, with Chairman Aung Shwe, Khin Maung Swe and Dr. Than Nyein heading a pro-registration faction opposed by the likes of Win Tin, Nyan Win and Ohn Kyaing.
As the decision appears deadlocked at the Central Executive Committee level, half of whose members remain incarcerated, the party has called for a March 29th meeting of the 100 Central Committee members to assist in deciding the matter.
If the NLD leadership chooses to enter the election, contends Khin Saw Htay of the NLD's Women’s Affairs Working Group in Magway Division, “they would thereby default on their longstanding claim for the results of the1990 elections to be honored.”
"In the case of making a decision for the party on whether to join in the new election or not, every Central Committee member must show their courage. I worry they will vote pro-election since they are in fear of arrest. If so, I denounce them for the sake of ending the military dictatorship," she said.
Today, NLD members from Meik-Hti-Lar Township in Mandalay Division sent a letter to party headquarters proposing an open voting system in making the decision.
"A person should openly stand for his or her political position. I call on them to openly state their position," remarked Myint Myint Aye, a party member downgraded to ordinary party member status due to a violation of party regulations in February of this year.
She faults party leadership for a lack of preparation to the present crisis.
Tin Oo, Vice-Chairman of the NLD, himself recently released from house arrest, has yet to make any public statement regarding party re-registration. But he has stated he will stand together with Aung San Suu Kyi no matter her decision.
According to election laws, prisoners are not allowed to stand for election, let alone be members of political parties. Aung San Suu Kyi is currently serving an 18-month sentence for purportedly harboring an American man who gained illegal access to her lakeside compound in May 2009.