NLD’s clean sweeps in regional parliaments mean local governments face little scrutiny – analysts 

Several local governments will be able to operate without scrutiny from opposition parties after the National League for Democracy (NLD) won every elected seat in five of Myanmar’s seven regional legislatures last month, analysts have warned. 

The party’s landslide election victory on November 8, which bettered its historic 2015 win, not only increased its supermajority in Naypyitaw but also its stranglehold on local Hluttaws in the Bamar-dominated regions. 

Not a single opposition MP secured a seat in races for the Magway, Tanintharyi, Bago, Irrawaddy and Mandalay regional legislatures this year. In 2015 the NLD won every elected seat in just two parliaments: Magway and Tanintharyi.

“There’s a worry that parliamentary scrutiny will be weakened as there are more regions where the NLD is winning every constituency than before,” said Htin Kyaw Aye, founder of Ananda Data, a group promoting transparency in politics.

And while a quarter of all seats are reserved for unelected soldiers, representatives in Tanintharyi and Magway say military MPs mostly are mostly cooperative.

One way to correct the imbalance would be to select parliamentary speakers who are likely to challenge the local government, rather than loyalists, he suggested. 

But Than Myat Soe, director of the Kanong Institute, which monitors the Mandalay Hluttaw, said that a lack of opposition was already an issue. The nine opposition MPs who lost their seats last month often failed to scrutinise the Mandalay regional government, he said. 

In the states, though, NLD-led local government often faces firmer opposition. The  Arakan National Party (ANP) has dominated the Rakhine State Hluttaw since 2015, putting it at odds with the state government led by the NLD’s chief minister Nyi Pu.

In 2018, ANP MPs removed the NLD’s municipal affairs minister in Rakhine, Min Aung, after accusing him giving projects to companies to build markets in the state without putting the projects out to tender. 

They also sought to remove the state’s finance minister, Kyaw Aye Thein, for misconduct, though they lost that vote. 

In other cases, the NLD’s own MPs have proven effective at holding the leadership to account. Kayah state’s chief minister L Phaung Sho was impeached earlier this year after NLD MPs joined with USDP representatives to oust him for alleged corruption. 

The NLD has held every elected seat in the Tanintharyi Hluttaw since 2015. Even so, the party’s MPs played a role in bringing down former chief minister Lei Lei Maw for corruption; the legislature last year sent a report on complaints against her to the president. 

Dr Htoo Nay Aung, a regional MP for Kyunsu township in Tanintharyi, said that regional governments were held to account by strong parliamentary committees even if they did not include opposition MPs. 

Htin Kyaw Aye said that while NLD MPs may be able to keep their own party in check in some areas, opposition MPs were needed to challenge the rationale of core policies. 

“NLD MPs are likely to ask questions about constituency issues without questioning the party’s policies,” he said. 

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