Time for ethnic and democracy based parties to engage

On 10 October, the alliance of 10 political parties, which includes 5 ethnic parties, reached agreement to draft a parliamentary proposal for the 14 states/regions to be granted a federal system. “We envisage a federal system similar to the United States,” Thu Wai, leader of the Democratic Party Myanmar (DPM) told Irrawaddy.

Indeed, Burma has come a long way from equating federalism with secession to seeking it as a solution to the country’s problems.

Although there are ethnic parties, notably the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) that won the most seats in Shan State in the 1990 elections, that continue to insist on the 1962 “8 states” proposition, the problem could now be sorted out through seminars and negotiations, as the main issue will not be about federalism but the form of federalism that the country should adopt.

However, there will also be other issues that are in need to be discussed and agreed upon.
No doubt, both camps will have no problem about the reviewing of provisions as set forth in the 2008 constitution, such as:

  • Fundamental rights and duties of the citizens
  • Role of the military
  • State of emergency

However, to make Burma a federal democracy, the following issues, at least, should also be discussed and agreed upon:

  • Article 59 designating the qualification of the President and Vice Presidents
  • Raising the status of state/region governments and legislatures
  • Revamping the Upper House (that represents the interests of state/regions)

Encouragingly, President Thein Sein has been talking about “decentralization” and the President Office’s Minister U Soe Thein has also promised enhanced revenue and power sharing with the states and regions.

SHAN therefore hopes the upcoming year will be a year for continued negotiations and agreements not only among states and regions, but also between ethnic-based and democracy-based parties that will collectively form a solid basis for the emergence of a new, peaceful and prosperous nation (or “state-nation”, according to Professor Alfred Stepan) thereafter.


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