Officials from all 54 of Myanmar’s registered political parties have been invited to attend a seminar in Yangon this week organised by two European non-government organisations.Organisers say the February 19-20 meeting is likely to be the first opportunity for officials from the parties to get together and discuss the challenges they face in the democratic transition “across party lines”.

“The Role of Political Parties in Democratic Transitions” seminar is hosted by the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) and the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy (DIPD), in cooperation with the Nyein Foundation.

“Our hope is to get all parties to participate and discuss the role of political parties in a democratic transition. Many have said that they will come, so the beginning is promising,” said Ms Hanne Lund Madsen, senior adviser at DIPD.

“If everyone comes to the seminar it would be an important opportunity for them to discuss common challenges. They share many of the same challenges, although they have different political positions. It could be a possible beginning to a gradual build-up of a multi-party political platform,” she said.

Delegations from both NIMD and DIPD undertook visits in June and October 2012 to meet a broad spectrum of political actors and explore possible ways of assisting the democratisation process.

The seminar is the first element of a “Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Program” that the organisations are jointly implementing.

It will include workshops on the themes of strengthening party organisation, establishing multi-party dialogue, negotiating democratic space, and responding to voters’ expectations. These themes have been decided in close consultation with the parties and what they perceive their key challenges to be.

As well as representatives of political parties and the Union Election Commission, speakers from Nepal, South Africa and Indonesia will also attend the seminar. Organisers say that while the political situation in Myanmar is unique there are opportunities to draw on experiences in other countries that have gone through similar democratic transitions.

“It is an opportunity for the political parties to both share experiences with each other but also from other countries,” Ms Lund Madsen said.

The Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Program began on September 1, 2012 and will run until at least the end of this year but is expected to continue for three more years.