It’s barely 80 days to the November 8 general election. All agree on the importance of the vote. National League for Democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has said that it will decide the future of the country. Other politicians, scholars, journalists and international community have echoed her views.

But a worrying development has occurred as the election draws near. The dispute between the NLD and the 88 Generation over the party’s candidate list could split the democratic forces. But is it likely to happen and if so what effect would such a split have?

Where did it start?

About 20 people from the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, which is headed by Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, registered to contest the election for the NLD. One of these, Ko Mya Aye, registered on July 19 but cancelled his application on July 27. When the list of candidates was released by the party’s central executive committee, all 88 Generation members except Ko Pyone Cho were missing. U Ko Ko Gyi was among those rejected.

The NLD said candidates had been selected according to the party’s procedure. The 88 Generation saw it as an attempt to damage the standing of not only the 20 members who applied to run as NLD candidates but their entire organisation.

Are they really divided?

We can see clearly whether the NLD and 88 Generation are divided by looking at recent comments from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, U Ko Ko Gyi and Min Ko Naing. Early on, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said this about the selection of candidates: “The temperament of those people who are not selected as candidates will appear soon. We can plainly see if they are working for themselves or the party,” she said.

That was aimed at members of the 88 Generation, as well as other candidates who were not selected.

At first, 88 Generation members didn’t understand the decision of the NLD. Later, they understood it to be an attack on the whole 88 Generation. In an interview, U Ko Ko Gyi said the 88 Generation would continue to support “democratic forces and ethnic forces”.

“I mean I will support those who I believe are democratic forces. We will continue with that stance until the end of 2015.”

Significantly, he didn’t say he would support the NLD and try to help the NLD win. The meaning is very different.

U Ko Ko Gyi added, “Townships don’t like the candidates selected by the NLD because they have a bad reputation. Our members in the townships asked us how they could support those people to win the election. Locals know who is working for democracy. So I replied to them that they should support those people,” he said.

He added that they will establish a political party after 2015 and they want their party to be one based on policies. A political party formed with this philosophy can solve the problems of the country, he said.

It means that NLD is based on a person – Daw Aung San Suu Kyi – not policies.

At the same time, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi hasn’t kept quiet. During a rally in Bago Region on August 7, she said that there are two kinds of people: those who can be taught and those who cannot. It is very convenient to work with those who can be taught, she said, but not those who think they are too good to learn anything new. That’s why she tried to select as candidates people who can be taught. This was undoubtedly a thinly veiled reference to the 88 Generation.

She then told the public to ignore the candidate and just vote for the party.

“On polling day, vote for our NLD. Don’t look at the candidate. If the candidate is not good, we will admonish them. If they don’t understand what to do, we will teach them. It is our duty. If a candidate can’t be improved, we will take action on them according to the rules and regulations,” she said.

On her trip to Magwe Region’s Minbu on August 9, she said, “Don’t worry about the names of the candidates. There are good or better people. But we will try to make the bad ones better and improve the good ones. Since we are ready to face the problems of more than 52 million people in the country, we can control about 1000 candidates. Don’t worry about it.”

She said this after the 88 Generation said it would support “democratic forces”. It is Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s response. So, you can see clearly that NLD and the 88 Generation have really gone their separate ways. But if this continues, it will have big implications for the election and could damage the fight for democracy.

How many seats does NLD need to win?

The November 8 election will choose members of parliament for the Pyi-daungsu Hluttaw in Nay Pyi Taw and state and region hluttaws. Members of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw can elect the president and vice presidents, so they are directly involved in forming government. If the NLD wins more than 50 percent of seats in the lower house, or Pyithu Hluttaw, it will be able to choose one of three presidential candidates. Similarly, if it can get 50pc of seats in the upper house, or Amyotha Hluttaw, it can choose another presidential candidate. But even if they can choose two candidates, there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to select the president. The 25pc military bloc, who are all appointed by the commander-in-chief, also choose one presidential nominee. From these three nominees, a president is selected. So the NLD can only say with certainty that it can choose the president if it gets 334 seats, or two-thirds, of the 498 seats in the Pyithu Hluttaw and Amyotha Hluttaw. The party’s aim is to get over that two-thirds threshold.

Can the NLD hit that mark?

It will be extremely difficult for the NLD to win two-thirds of seats because we are not sure if the referee of the election – the Union Election Commission – will be fair. The second point is that while the NLD can expect to perform well against the USDP it also has to compete against ethnic political parties that are strong in the states. It has chosen not to make an alliance with them. There are at least 207 seats – 123 Pyithu Hluttaw and 84 Amyotha Hluttaw – that will be contested by ethnic political parties. This is nearly 42pc of all Pyidaungsu Hluttaw seats.

So, what should they do?

Because of these challenges, the NLD needs to join forces with or get the support of a force that people love and respect – like the 88 Generation. As we can see, however, the 88 Generation doesn’t support the NLD anymore. This will make it more difficult for the NLD to win a landslide victory in the election.

Politicians at home and abroad can’t understand why the NLD and the 88 Generation are so far apart. They have both made sacrifices for people and the country. They are seeking the same outcomes, and following a similar path.

We can see that leaders from both sides are responsible for this split, especially Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD, which is the more powerful group. Rather than say things that will only make the situation worse, she and her party need to search for the root of the problem and find out what went wrong. Both sides should change their stances quickly for the sake of the country and the people.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and leaders of the 88 Generation should meet as soon as possible to negotiate and put the recent issues behind them. The country’s future is the balance. Both sides need to be united rather than split and divided.

http://www.mmtimes.com/index.php/opinion/16044-nld-and-88-generation-it-s-time-to-unite.html