In order to prevent a highly likely landslide win by the National League for Democracy (NLD) of Aung San Suu Kyi, the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) may be pushing for a Proportional Representation (PR) system, say political and activist sources in Burma.
“The current winner-take-all (first-past-the-post) system may sound the death knell of the USDP, just like it has done to the NUP (National Unity Party, the former ruling Socialist Party of the late Gen Ne Win),” commented a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
One indication was a month-long workshop organized by Myanmar Egress, widely considered an NGO of the government, on 24 May-27 June and attended by representatives from political parties and CBOs, and MPs. “One of the main topics discussed at length there was PR,” said a party representative.
The system has reportedly become the predominant voting system in Western Europe. 21 out of 28 countries there, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland are using it.
According to the system, lawmakers are elected in multimember constituencies instead of single-member constituencies, and the number of seats a party wins is proportional to the amount of votes it receives. It is said to be providing more accurate representation of parties and better representation for ethnic minorities and women, among others.
“More time will be needed for me to give a definitive answer,” said Dr Suikhar of the Chin National Front. “But on the surface of it, state-based parties should think twice before it agrees to the system. Because it means there will be more MPs from the national parties in the state legislatures.”
The national parties most state-based politicians have in mind are the NLD and USDP. “During the 2010 elections, our main opponent was the USDP,” said another state-based politician. “But in the upcoming 2015 elections, it is likely the NLD will be our main opponent unless we can reach understanding and agreement with it.”
Commenting on the situation, Sai Wansai, General Secretary of the Shan Democratic Union (SDU) told SHAN: “The solution is for the NLD to refrain from entering elections in the states, particularly where its (state-based) allies are going to run. An example is the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the mainstream party led by Angela Merkel in Germany. It never runs in Bavaria, where its sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) is entering elections.”
According to the military-drawn and approved 2008 constitution, the Election Commission is assigned 8 duties, one of which is: “(f) prescribing rules relating to elections or political parties in accord with the provisions of this Constitution, and procedures, directives, so forth, in accord with relevant laws.” It had already changed some of the wordings in the 2010 election law to allow the NLD to participate in the April by-elections.