NLD govt announces 13 new chief ministers; angers Rakhine party

  • By Myanmar Now
  • 28/03/2016

Members of parliament in a session in Yangon regional parliament. (Photo: Htet Khaung Linn/Myanmar Now)

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By Myanmar Now

 

YANGON (Myanmar Now) - Myanmar's new government announced the appointments of chief ministers for 13 states and regions on Monday, all of whom belong to the National League for Democracy (NLD), according to announcements from the state and region’s parliaments.

One appointment, that of the chief minister position for conflict-torn Kachin State, has not yet been revealed.

Unlike last week’s announcements of President Htin Kyaw’s 18-member cabinet, where NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi was the lone woman, there were two female chief ministers on the list. 

The NLD won a landslide election victory in November and the party is in the process of forming its national and regional governments as part of Myanmar’s transition from a military-backed government to a popularly elected one.

The appointment of NLD members of parliament in the coveted roles of chief ministers across the country, including in states where it did not win a majority, came despite objections from some ethnic parties, most importantly the leading party in western Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine State.  

“If the NLD, which won the bulk of seats in the election, is really considering national reconciliation when forming state and region governments, it should discuss with local ethnic parties and work to include them,” said political analyst Yan Myo Thein.

Chief ministers are the heads of the state or region governments. Under the 2008 Constitution, the president nominates the chief minister and the regional parliaments then confirm the choice, but there is little scope for the latter to veto the nominees. 

Myanmar-based analyst Richard Horsey said the NLD’s control over the chief minister positions would be important to implementing its policies in the states and regions. “Although the constitutional power of the chief minister are not that great because decentralisation is still a work in progress, in practice, as the senior most government person on the ground in these state and regions, the chief ministers have a lot of say in what happens (there),” he told Myanmar Now. 

“It’s impossible for any international organisation to operate in these regions without the agreement of the chief minister. They are de facto quite powerful positions. That’s why the NLD is so keen to ensure that NLD people are in those positions,” he added.

The list of chief ministers, already leaked on Sunday, include the new NLD spokesperson Dr. Zaw Myint Maung for Mandalay Region, who Myanmar Now interviewed last month, and the 51-year-old Dr. Lei Lei Maw, one of the two female chief ministers.

The latter’s appointment was unanimously endorsed by the parliament of Tanintharyi Region, which shares a border with Thailand. A doctor until 2012 when she joined the NLD, Dr. Lei Lei Maw told Myanmar Now via phone she would focus on solving the numerous land disputes marring her region and a slew of environmental complaints related to the billion-dollar, Thailand-backed Dawei Special Economic Zone in her region.

“I will try my best to resolve several social and economic problems of people in this region,” she said.

NLD MP Hkyet Aung has been tipped to become the Kachin State chief minister, but the state parliament will reveal the appointment on Tuesday.

ARAKAN PARTY WALK OUT  

The NLD did not win a majority in Rakhine and Shan states, but appointed its chief ministers there regardless - a decision that is in line with the Constitution, which grants the president authority to select “a suitable (parliamentary) representative” for chief minister. 

The nomination cannot be refused by the region or state parliament “unless it can clearly be proved that the person concerned does not meet the qualifications of the Chief Minister of the Region or State,” the charter says. Even if this happens, the president has the right to submit a new name.

Last year, there was a proposal to reverse the process so that state and region parliaments would nominate an elected MP for the chief minister position and the president would confirm the role, but it was rejected.

The Arakan National Party (ANP), which won 44 out of 77 contested seats in Rakhine State, has been demanding it gets the chief minister post there, and it threatened to go into opposition if the party was not given the post. 

Twenty state MPs from ANP, which strongly defends the Buddhist Rakhine population in its ongoing conflict with the Muslim Rohingya minority, staged a walkout from the Rakhine parliament when the name of the chief minister - the NLD’s Nyi Pu - was announced, said Soe Win, an ANP state MP.

ANP leader Dr. Aye Maung told Myanmar Now there had been no discussions with the NLD to seek a compromise over the chief minister appointment, adding that his party was now likely to go into opposition.

“It’s like they (the NLD) walk their own path and we walk ours. It looks like they don’t want to negotiate with us very much. We will continue to take the stance as in our announcement, which was made after careful consideration,” he said in a phone interview.

The tension between the ANP and NLD raises concerns over how the parties can cooperate to improve the situation in Rakhine, a volatile state that was wrecked by communal violence in 2012 between Rakhine Buddhists and Muslims which displaced some 140,000 people, the majority of them Muslims.

“It’s clearly not a good sign,” said Horsey, “Because I think the ANP understands that the NLD administration, the president, has the authority to nominate the chief minister. (But) the thing that worries them is there has not been any detailed discussion or consultation in advance… So I suppose it’s the decision, as well as the process they are rejecting.”

He added it would be important for the NLD to find a modus of cooperation with the ANP so that the party’s “more radical tendencies are not going to be activated.”

Below is the list of chief ministers:-

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