Asia-Pacific

Burma election: Ethnic parties

Burma's electoral commission has approved 37 parties to run in the election, of which 22 represent a particular ethnic group.

The BBC looks some of the main ethnic parties

Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP)

The SNDP, based in Rangoon, is Burma's largest independent ethnic party. It says it seeks to represent all Shan regardless of where they live in the country.

Known as White Tiger, the party is contesting 157 constituencies in Shan, Kachin and Karenni states as well as in Pengu and Rangoon.

The party's leader, 65-year-old former salt trader Sai Ai Pao, led the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), which came third in the 1990 election.

He says he wants to see Burma gradually move towards a democratic system, and that the election is part of that slow process.

"We assume that the military is now ruling the country with 100%. In the future, civilians will participate in the administration with 75% - and isn't getting 75% better than nothing?"

"We are working with our hearts full of patriotism," he told the Irrawaddy newspaper. "If we don't contest, who will speak for Shan state?"

Irrawaddy reports SNDP members have faced harassment and threats from the military or have been prevented from campaigning. Elections have been cancelled in 10% of Shan state.

Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP)

RNDP is running in Arakan (Rakhine) state, the traditional home of many of Burma's Rohingya minority.

It is fielding 44 candidates for the various parliamentary seats. Party President Aye Maung says that if they are successful, the party's first priority will be to reform land ownership rules and develop full access to electricity.

He told the Irrawaddy newspaper: "We can't accept the current situation where we are facing socioeconomic deterioration in Arakan State while China receives natural gas from our state for their development."

Kachin State Progressive Party (KSPP)

The KSPP applied to run in the election but was ruled ineligible under the new constitutional rules because it is headed by a former leader of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), an armed group which has resisted the junta's pressure to join the Border Guard Force.

According to the Thailand-based Burma News International, it is KSPP's popularity - as a result of its efforts to improve conditions in the state - that has caused the junta to block it from running.

Democracy Party of Kachin State (UDPKS)

The UDPKS was formed by former members of the junta party, the United Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and so is essentially a proxy for the government.

Irrawaddy says this means that "no ethnic party truly represents the Kachin, and other ethnics in Kachin state".

All Mon Region Democracy Party (AMRDP)

The party, formed after the New Mon State Party decided to boycott the elections, is the only ethnic Mon party running. It is contesting 25 seats in Mon and Kayin states. Mon News reported in September that the party had been barred from running in Rangoon and Tenaserim district "because the government considers a large portion of Mon people living in these two areas to not be ethnically Mon". AMRDP estimates that more than 100,000 ethnic Mon live in Rangoon.

The party says in areas where it is running, its members and campaigners have been intimated by troops while electioneering. The party was also ordered to remove passages referring to "genuine" federalism in the country, the Altasean network reports.

Chin National Party (CNP)

The CNP is running only in Chin state. Cartoonist and humanitarian worker Pu Zozam, who leads the party, has said the Chin ethnic groups should not miss out on the opportunity presented by the election to improve conditions in Chin state.

Mr Zozam defended the decision to run despite the fact that 25% of seats will be allocated to the military.

"There are 100 food plates, of these only 25 plates have takers, but we don't want to waste the rest of the 75 food plates," he told the anti-junta Mizzima news agency.

Another ethnic Chin party, the Chin Progressive Party (CPP) is fielding 11 candidates in Chin state and ethnic Chin areas of Sagaing division. Its chairman is retired police intelligence chief Lian Ce.

Kayin People's Party (KPP)

The KPP is representing the Karen ethnic group but is not fielding any candidates in Kayin state itself. Instead, they are focusing on the Karen vote in Irrawaddy and Rangoon, fielding 44 candidates.

The party is run by Saw Say Wah, a former police colonel, leading to concerns it is closely linked to the junta. He told Irrawaddy: "We want to tell people not to boycott the vote. Please make the right choice for the right person. That is our message to the people."

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