Two small political parties in Myanmar are calling for a coalition government following year-end elections, saying the arrangement is needed to resolve armed conflicts and political deadlocks that have stifled the peace plans and reform pledges of the four-year-old administration of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Major parties poured cold water on the idea.
Officials from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) party and the People's Party say only a coalition government can effectively move the country forward by ending Myanmar's decades-long civil wars, realizing the enactment of democratic constitutional amendments, and making progress with the economy and the labor force.
Sai Leik, general secretary of and spokesman for the SNLD, said he expects close results in the elections and not a replay of the landslide victory that the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party won in the November 2015 general elections.
“We have seen the leadership of the ruling party fail to fulfill people’s wishes as it has made single-handed decisions on national affairs,” he told RFA.
“We need a coalition and a strong opposition voice to ensure that the ruling government stays on course,” he said. “I agree with the suggestion that we need a coalition government.”
The SNLD will compete in all townships in Shan state and some townships in Kayah and Kachin states and in Mandalay region in the 2020 general election, Sai Leik told Myanmar Eleven Media Group in January.
Ko Ko Gyi, chairman of the People’s Party, said a collation government is needed to resolve both old and new issues.
“We believe that we need a coalition government beyond 2020,” he said, noting that Myanmar has had only consecutive one-party governments.
“In the meantime, we are far from resolving the old challenges, and now we’ve got new ones,” he added. “We believe a coalition government formed with competent personnel and organizations will be able to resolve the problems.”
Ko Ko Gyi said the People’s Party will not contest the 2020 general elections on a nationwide scale, but will run only in some states and regions.
‘No intention’ to form coalition
The NLD, led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, has focused on trying to end wars between the government military and various ethnic armed groups, forge national reconciliation, and create a democratic federal union.
But the party’s efforts have been stymied by ongoing warfare, the political power of the military in vetoing constitutional amendments, the Rohingya crisis in Rakhine state, and the spread of the coronavirus. On Tuesday, Myanmar registered 180 confirmed COVID-19 cases and six deaths.
NLD lawmakers, however, say their party will not accept the idea of a coalition government should it win the next election as long as the military retains its constitutionally mandated quarter of the seats in parliament.
“The NLD has no intention of forming a coalition government for now,” said NLD party spokesman Monywa Aung Shin.
“The NLD has contested in elections since 1990 and won landslide victories,” he said.
The party swept the general elections of 1990, but the military refused to accept the result. The party also won a decisive victory in the 2015 election, which saw Aung San Suu Kyi come to power as Myanmar’s de facto leader.
“The NLD has worked together with brotherhood parties in parliament since the  election victory. This is the NLD’s tradition,” Monywa Aung Shin said.
Myanmar attorney and political commentator Aung Thein said that the NLD will not form a coalition government as long as the military continues to be appointed to an automatic 25 percent of seats in the Union parliament under the current constitution, drafted in 2008 by a former military junta that ruled the country.
“The NLD will not support forming a coalition party as long as there are 25 percent of military MPs in parliament,” he told RFA. “It would be concerned that it would mar the country’s democratic transition.”
“The NLD would also be worried that such a coalition would form an alliance with the previous ruling party,” he said, referring to the current main opposition military-supported Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
‘Nothing would move forward’
The USDP also opposes the formation of a coalition government.
“Forming a coalition government would allow all political parties to be represented and it might satisfy all the parties, but it is essential that everyone in a coalition, despite their different backgrounds, is committed to serving the interest of the people and the nation and that they cooperate with each other,” said USDP spokesman Nandar Hla Myint.
“If they adhere to party policy or interest groups and refuse to cooperate, then there would be nonstop debates, and nothing would move forward,” he said.
More than 650 lawmakers from 14 different political parties along with independent and military legislators comprise Myanmar's current Union parliament.
The NLD controls more than 58 percent of parliamentary seats, followed by 25 percent guaranteed to the military, and 6 percent held by the USDP.
Arakan National Party (ANP) lawmakers occupy 3 percent of the seats in the Union parliament, SNLD lawmakers 2 percent, independent members 1 percent, and those from remaining parties less than 1 percent.
Each political party’s portion of lawmakers is crucial for forming a government administration as the current constitution mandates that elected representatives nominate the country’s president and vice presidents. The president in turn appoints the chief ministers of states and regions.
Parties also are required to control 20 percent or greater of the seats in the Union parliament to be able to submit bills and constitutional amendments for consideration.
Political parties in Myanmar have urged the Union Election Commission (UEC) to consult them on whether to postpone the country’s 2020 general election due to the coronavirus pandemic, through the UEC has said that the vote will be held as planned.
About 100 political parties are expected to run for seats in the 2020 elections.
Reported by Wai Mar Tun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.