Burma’s general election is expected to take place across in the country in November, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
SHAN interviewed Sai Aik Pao, chair of the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP)—also known as the White Tiger party, because of its logo—about his party’s preparation for the upcoming election under these circumstances and their plans to participate in it.
The SNDP won one state parliament seat in the 2015 election. In 2010, the SNDP won 57 seats and gained one more in the 2012 by-election.
Will the SNDP contest the upcoming 2020 general election?
Sure. We will run in 30 townships in Shan State. We will contest constituencies in eastern, southern and northern Shan State, Kachin State and for the Shan affairs ministerial post in Mandalay Region.
How many seats does your party expect to win in the coming election?
We have had experience in winning elections. We won 58 seats in previous election[s] and expect to win the same seats in the upcoming election.
What is the election schedule? COVID-19 continues to affect the country. What kind of difficulties do you expect to face if the election continues on schedule?
The election schedule depends on the Union Election Commission (UEC).
If the election takes place on schedule as planned, will the SNDP face any difficulties in running an election campaign?
They (the UEC) have yet to announce it, so we still have time. The election will take place in November. The campaign period will be three months long. We have to wait about one-and-a-half months more. Perhaps, COVID-19 may end within this period—anything is possible.
If the election takes place amid the COVID-19 pandemic, what kind of challenges will the SNDP have?
We don’t have a lot of challenges. People have been missing the White Tiger Party for so long. The White Tiger Party is capable. White Tiger can do it. I have heard the voice of the people during these days. That is why we are trying so hard.
Has the SNDP called for electoral candidate applications?
We have a plan. We have had an idea about who is going to run in which constituency, and who is going to contest for the Upper and Lower House. So candidates do not need to submit their application. We know who works hard for the people. We will allow them to submit their electoral candidate applications when the election time is nearer. We have given full authority to township committees. They know that people favor who should run in their constituencies. The central committee won’t give orders [on who they should select]. The township committees know who should run in their constituencies.
Has the SNDP established criteria regarding the qualifications for electoral candidates?
Our policy is that we will prioritize the selection of women and youth. For example: the four top party leaders won’t run in the coming election, including the party chairman, and finance manager. We are old enough. We will give the opportunity to the younger generation.
What percent of women and youth will the SNDP select to be candidates?
I think women and youth make up about 20-30 percent.
Are you going to contest the coming election?
No. I won’t run in the coming election. I am old enough. The two vice-chairmen won’t contest the coming election. Our finance director won’t run in coming election. People who are over 70 years of age, do not need to run in the coming election.
What qualifiications does the SNDP have for its candidates?
We will prioritize the selection of educated persons who can take care of our national races and religion.
The SNDP has the experience of running in two general elections. What do the party’s preparations involve?
I just returned from a trip. I already visited southern Shan State. I will continue to visit eastern and northern Shan State and Kachin State. Even though I won’t run in the coming election, I will work on the election campaign. We are trying for a Shan political party to rule in Shan State.
Are you satisfied with the performance of the acting SNDP’s parliamentarian?
I am satisfied with the performance of our party’s parliamentarian. I don’t want to dig into the background. We won only one seat in the last general election for many reasons. I don’t want to talk about it. The capability of our parliamentarian is equal to the capability of 10 or 100 people. Our members are capable.
What do you expect from the coming general election? How many seats do you expect to win?
We won 58 seats in the past election [in 2010 and in 2012]. We have experience. If the White Tiger Party wins in the coming 2020 general election, we will try to form the Shan State government.
There are many mining projects in Shan State. What can the SNDP do about this?
Regarding the mining issue, it is concerning the Union government. The Union government has full authority to make decisions. We won’t agree with a mining project if local people oppose it.
I have heard that the SNDP will cooperate with other ethnic political parties. How do you plan to do this?
If the Shan people and Shan State will benefit, we will cooperate with them. If our people and our state won’t benefit, we won’t work with them. Our Shan political party cannot form the Union government. Only two political parties in central Burma can form the Union government. If our Shan people and Shan State will benefit, we will cooperate with them. If we won’t benefit, we won’t cooperate with them.
What kind of benefits do you expect?
I think don’t think any political party can win a landslide victory in the coming 2020 general election, so political parties will form a coalition government. So they will come to negotiate with us. If our Shan people and Shan State will benefit, we will cooperate with them. If not, we won’t cooperate with them.
What message do you have for Shan people regarding the upcoming election?
I would like to tell Shan people to vote for the White Tiger Party in 2020 general election. If Shan people vote for us, Shan people and Shan State will develop. Shan State will have peace. We will work for Shan State and the Shan people.
This interview has been lightly edited in English for clarity.