NLD vice chair douses hopes of ethnic party appointments to chief minister roles 

The National League for Democracy’s (NLD) vice chair has dealt a blow to hopes the party will follow through on its promise of a “national unity government” by all but ruling out the possibility of appointing members of ethnic parties as regional chief ministers in its next term. 

Dr Zaw Myint Maung, who is also the current chief minister for Mandalay region, said that “because the NLD won a landslide victory, the chief ministers will likely be from our party when we form a government.”

“It was the same before; we’re following the provisions in the 2008 constitution,” he told Myanmar Now after an event at the Mandalay branch of the Myanmar Medical Association on Thursday. “It’s not like we’re taking it by force..”

After its resounding victory in the November 8 poll, the NLD invited 48 ethnic parties for talks and promised not to “take all the control” when it formed the next government. 

It has since met with parties in Kachin and Shan states and made efforts to meet with parties in Kayah and Mon that were aborted because of disagreements over the venues. 

During a meeting with the NLD last week, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) asked to be given cabinet positions in the next government. “In order to cooperate there needs to be a delegation of responsibilities,” Sai Kyaw Nyunt, the SNLD’s first joint secretary, told Myanmar Now.

“I’d say the Shan trip was successful; it was welcoming,” said Dr Zaw Myint Maung. “Kachin was quite welcoming too. They said they were willing to cooperate. It’s a good sign that they’re willing to cooperate for a democratic federal union.”

The SNLD won 15 seats in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw and 27 in Shan State Hluttaw in November, making it the third largest party in the country.

The NLD drew criticism from ethnic parties after the 2015 election for only appointing members of its own party to chief minister positions. Most ethnic parties want to amend article 261 of the constitution so that state and regional parliaments, rather than the President, can select their own chief ministers. 

It is likely the NLD’s refusal to cede any power at the state level will complicate its negotiations in Shan and Rakhine, where ehtnic parties bucked the national trend of an NLD clean sweep in November. 

Chief ministers, not lawmakers in regional and state Hluttaws, have the power to form local cabinets. The Arakan National Party (ANP), which won the most seats in Rakhine in November, has said it wants to form a state government, an opportunity the NLD also denied it in 2015. 

Newly elected lawmakers will take their seats in Naypyitaw in the first week of February and begin the process of electing the next President. The President will then appoint chief ministers. Lawmakers in state and regional Hluttaws will take their seats from February 9.

The NLD has not yet announced its pics for the next president or any cabinet positions. 

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