2020 GENERAL ELECTIONS: Will the Wa Self-Administrative Division participate?

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On November 3, spokesperson of Union Election Commission (UEA) Myint Naing told the media there is a plan to hold the upcoming 2020 general elections in Mongla and Wa areas, officially known as Shan State Special Region 4 and Shan State Special Region 2 or Wa Self-Administrative Division respectively.

UECM

Both special regions are being administered independently by respective National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) or Mongla and United Wa State Army (UWSA), without central government interference, due to the 1989 ceasefire agreement when the Communist Party of Burma disintegrated of which the two were part of it.

Subsequently,  Nyi Rang, Lashio liaison office representative of the UWSA told Mizzima Daily that there has been negotiation going on between UEC and the UWSA headquarters regarding the issue.

“It depends upon the discussion and agreement between the government and our headquarters. The government and our headquarters have regular contact. Whatever it is, it depends on the agreement,” Nyi Rang said.

“I myself don’t know anything. If the headquarters and the government agree with each other, the prospect of holding election will be possible. This is because Wa State is also part of Myanmar. I believe and hope this will enable to support Wa national interest a lot,” he added.

In the same vein, Wa Liberal Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Hsai Pao Nup said whether Mongla and Wa areas could hold election will depend on the wish of the local people.

“If the respected areas’ local people accepted it (the election) must be held. If not we will have to think it over because they are special regions. Our party is the main local party for the election and if the local people accepted we will have to do it,” he said.

Telephone inquiry to UEC to ask about the election situation in Wa area by Mizzima was not answered and thus further update information are not available at this writing.

According to the 2008 constitution, Chapter 2, Section 56 (f), Hopang, Mongmao, Panwai, Nahpan, Metman and Pangsang (Pankham) townships in Shan State two districts are forged into Wa Self-Administrative Division.

According to UEC “Winning Parties in Self-Administered Zones in the 2015 General Elections” report, the 2015 General Elections took place in Self-Administered Zones polling except five townships in Wa Self-Administered Division: Mongmao, Pangwaun, Namphan, Pangsang and Mongla. In addition, some villages tracts in Hopang and Matman did not have elections either. 

Presently within Shan State, Wa National Unity Party (WNUP), Wa Democratic Party (WDP) and Wa Liberal Democratic Progressive Party (LDPP) are officially registered parties and there is a likelihood that the three parties will combine to contest the 2020 election, said Hpalit San of WNUP.

SAZs SAD of Burma
wikipedia.org | Wa Self-Administered Division

According to 2015 General Elections Results of UEC in Wa area,  2 for Pyithu Hluttaw {1 individual for Matman and 1 WDP for Hopang} and 4 for State and Region Hluttaw {1 Lahu National Development Party for Matman (2), 2 WDP for Hopang (1) and Hopang (2), and 1 WNUP for Matman (1)}  were elected. 

Currently, Wa Self-Administrative Division is administered as the de facto independent Wa State, which the UWSA has been trying to achieve it formally and officially by bargaining with the central government for years, without success. 

Concerning this official upgrading of Wa area to state-level administrative status, in addition to the already existing seven states, which are Kachin, Shan, Karenni (Kayah), Karen, Mon, Arakan (Rakhine) and Chin states, Zaw Htay spokesman of presidential office explained the government’s position and procedure to the media on October 26 as follows.

He said regarding the Wa demand of state-level administration status and household registration, including issuing national registration cards for the indigenous (Taingyinthar) in Wa area some mentioned points below have to be taken into consideration.

  • Wa area also known as special region 2 and the government are gearing up to sign memorandum of understanding (MOU) to tread the path of Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA)-based peace  process; 
  • If federal union constitution comes into existence agreement on how the ethnic states will be administered will have to be worked out;
  • In order to become a constitutionally guaranteed state political negotiation and discussion are needed; and
  • Taingyinthar who are without household registration and national registration cards will be issued by mobile team of (Ministry of Immigration and Population). 

             (Source: Eleven Short View – October 26, 2019)

Given all the above mentioned facts, the scenario to be able to hold general elections in all Wa area will not be easy. 

Firstly, the eligible voters will be very few as most of the some 600,000 people within the Wa area have no national registration cards and not eligible to vote. Secondly, the verification process for those who may be entitled can only be speedily assessed once the MOU is signed between the government and the UWSA, followed by the inking of NCA, not before. And finally, the outcome of the Wa desired state-level administration aspirations will not be immediate and will depend on other political stakeholders opinion within the Shan State.

myanmar union election commission office
Myanmar Union Election Commission office. Photo: Kaung Kywe Soe/Google Plus

Thus, while the powers that be in Naypyitaw might be eager to hold elections to at least show the people of Myanmar that its administrative reach is officially established in Wa and Mongla areas, which until now is not the case, the UWSA goal is primarily to have a guarantee from the government that it will be granted a state-level administrative status before hand, which is also not possible for the government as a quasi-civilian-military regime under the military-drafted constitution.

And with such political sequence linked together as the presidential office spokesman has outlined, including the incompatible political goal-setting and aspirations on both side of the political spectrum, it is highly unlikely that the 2020 election could be held in Wa and Mongla areas for now.

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