Friday, November 11, 2011

What will November 18 mean for the NLD?

Friday, 11 November 2011 14:19 Salai Z. T. Lian

(Commentary) – The possibility of the NLD re-registering as a legal political party is high when about 106 members of the central committee of the National League for Democracy (NLD) from 13 states and regions will meet on November 18 in Rangoon to decide the issue.

Most young people in Burma will likely welcome the NLD if it decides to re-register, but many older Burmese might prefer the NLD to take a little bit more time to monitor and evaluate the development of Burmese politics under President Thein Sein’s government.
The fact is that there is a gap between the Burmese young and old on how they view politics, and how to deal with the government.

How the new Burmese government treats Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD is a  measure of how its move toward democracy is progressing. Photo: Mizzima

Regardless, the NLD needs to make policy and strategy changes since it no longer faces former dictator Than Shwe, but rather a new generation that looks more moderate and flexible than their previous boss. The NLD will choose the path that it believes is best on November 18.

The reason the government amended the Political Party Registration Law and the reason the NLD is considering to re-register are likely related to the talks between President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi on August 19, 2011.

There are interesting questions on how the NLD will go forward after November 18? Would it re-register as a lpolitical party and enter into elections, or would it decide not to re-register and watch the development of Burma’s politics, meanwhile focusing on humanitarian work? Its decision will tell us how much trust there is between the NLD and new Burmese government.

The trust between Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein seems established after the two met on August 19. But they kept their talk confidential. There must be the reason to keep it confidential. Maybe, they made a promise to change Burma or they shared sensitive information about changing Burma. Or they agreed to meet again. Or they made a deal that promised to amend the political parties registration laws in order for the NLD to re-register or run as a political party, or about releasing political prisoners, and in return, Suu Kyi agreed not to encourage mass demonstrations, and to tell international communities including Asean members, that Burma is changing positively.

Following their meeting, Suu Kyi credited President Thein Sein, saying she thinks he really wants to bring positive changes to Burma. Also, the talks between Union Minister Aung Kyi and Suu Kyi continued. Suu Kyi is allowed to communicate with international communities.

She is also allowed to do her political activity without restrictions. Media censorship has relaxed somewhat. The government granted amnesty to 6,359 prisoners including about 200 political prisoners recently. Reportedly, the government will grant amnesty again soon.
The ethnic groups are watching carefully. And, they’re wondering if the NLD re-registered and worked with Burmese government, how seriously would they work to solve ethnic issues?

The government knows what is needed to establish good relationships with international communities such as the U.N., USA and Asean. They measure Burma’s progress toward democracy based on how it deals with Suu Kyi’s NLD party.  That’s why the government started talking to her.

Ex-major Sai Thein Win, who leaked information about Burma’s nuclear work, said, “The NLD should re-register as a legal political party, and contest in the national Parliament. I didn’t vote in 1990. Like me, there are many young people who didn’t vote in 1990. The NLD should register as a political party so that many people who didn’t vote in the 1990 election can vote now.

“The Burmese military will make sure former Snr-Gen Than Shwe and his family are safe and their property is protected. There is a risk if their security and property are in danger that a military coup could happen at any time because he can still influence the military.”

Many Burmese including exiles are excited about what the NLD will decide on November 18. Most Burmese people will likely continue to support the NLD whether it decides to re-register or not. Suu Kyi’s party owns the hearts of the people in Burma.

The popularity of the NLD cannot be challenged politically. They will beat anyone as long as the elections are fair and free. Even if they just work as a social organization or NGO; they will still shake up Burmese politics.

But the NLD should enter the political battles at the Union, regional and local levels and not limit its work to social activities, even though that’s also a part of politics. That’s what November 18 will mean for the NLD and for Burma.

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