Political parties in Myanmar in historic gathering
A historic and unprecedented gathering of 50 political parties were participating in the Seminar on “The Role of Political Parties in Democratic Transitions”, held 19-20th February in Yangon by NIMD and DIPD as part of the Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Programme.
“This is the first time for decades that so many parties are gathered around the same table” one of the political party leaders claimed and continued: ”Moreover, we have not before jointly discussed our common roles and challenges as political parties”.
To allow as open and free dialogue between the political parties the seminar was run under “Chatham House Rules” allowing to share all information, but no quotes and that stimulated the debate a lot. How can parties move from personalized party characteristics? How can parties better make check and balances on the executive? How did other countries change the situation where the military were assigned special seats in the Parliament? What measures can increase women’s political participation? These and many other questions were asked to NIMD and DIPD partner representatives and international resource persons; Dr. Ignas Kleden from Indonesia, Mr. Shaun MacKay, South Africa, Mr. CK Lal from Nepal and Mr. Tom Cormier, IDEA.
The DIPD Reader: “Political Parties in Democratic Transitions” was also launched at the seminar (and translated to local language). Tom Cormier, IDEA, highlighted the four themes which the publication, the seminar and the follow-up workshops focused on:
ü Strengthening the political party organization
ü Establishing multiparty dialogue
ü Negotiating democratic space with the reforming government
ü Responding to voter expectations – representation and delivery.
Mr. Shau Mackay shared experiences from South Africa regarding the importance of multi-party dialogue and having an inclusive transition process where trust building, leadership, negotiation and compromise were essential to a peaceful transition.
Dr. Ignas Kleden shared the democratization path as it developed in Indonesia and cautioned that the parties in Indonesia played an insignificant role in the reform process, stressed the need to take into account the role of the military and pursue negotiations that accomodate rather than confrontate.
The experiences from Nepal’s ongoing transition were presented by Mr. CK Lal highlighting the importance of strengthening the institutionalization of political parties, enhancing civil oversight of the military and deciding on the most appropriate electoral system. Moreover, parties need to keep focus on being in political office for the good of the people and seeking economic development that will enhance equal opportunities and livelihoods. Without, a transition process can easily run off track.
The seminar was held in cooperation with the local organisation Nyein Foundation, which opened the seminar. In introducing the Myanmar Multi-party Democracy Programme, Hanne Lund Madsen, Senior Adviser at DIPD, outlined that NIMD and DIPD have had very positive preparatory consultations in the form of roundtable discussions with political networks, civil society organisations and government advisers, which confirmed broad-based support for and appreciation of the proposed seminar and for the Myanmar Multiparty Democracy programme, focusing on:
(i) facilitating an inclusive and impartial multi-party dialogue platform that addresses issues of national concern;
(ii) strengthening the capacities of political parties in a cross-party setting for example through training
(iii) enhancing the cooperation between political parties and civil society, the media and the private sector around issues of mutual concern.
At the following press briefing, Hanne Lund Madsen, expressed appreciation of the many political parties active participation in the seminar and their interest in multi-party dialogue and in discussing issues of common concern in the development of Myanmar. “We have noted the strong request to us for convening more dialogue meetings and we will see how we can best respond” she answered the local media.
In tandem with facilitating multi-party dialogue the Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Programme will also seek to work jointly with political parties on:
- Youth Political Education – and strengthening youth wings of the political parties
- Political Party Financing
- Role of Media and Political Parties
- Women in Politics
- Relationships between Parties, MP and Parliament
The Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Programme has the political parties as main partners, but cooperation will also be sought with both local and international organisations operating in Myanmar. DIPD and NIMD also convened a first information sharing meeting in Yangon of international organisations involved in support to political parties, parliament and electoral bodies. More than 30 representatives attended and greatly appreciated the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences and encouraged NIMD/DIPD to call the next meeting also.
Here you can read more about DIPD in Myanmar.