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The Union Election Commission will need more time as it weighs approving the establishment of a new political party with a declared nationalist bent, according to the head of the electoral body.
Hla Thein, the UEC chairman, said two ministries had already vetted the profiles of the would-be party leaders but had yet to submit the results of that scrutiny to the commission.
“Even once the ministries have submitted their report to us, we have to take more time [to decide] whether the party should be approved or not,” he said.
A group of nationalists including former members of the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, better known locally by its Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha, submitted their application seeking the formation of the Patriotic and United Party to the UEC on 2 August.
Myint Soe, also known as Maung Thway Chon, told DVB that the applicants hope the commission will grant its approval by the end of the year, but he acknowledged there was concern that the election body might reject the bid.
“We don’t know yet any information about our proposal,” he said. “The ministries of Home Affairs and Immigration have already finished scrutinising our profile. They said that our proposal could be approved soon. But we don’t know why the commission wants to take a long time.”
As originally conceived, the party name was to include the number “135,” in reference to the tally of officially recognised ethnic groups in Burma. The number was later dropped from the proposed party’s name.
“We removed ‘135’ because we were concerned about having the party registration rejected due to this number,” said Maung Thway Chon.
The designation of 135 indigenous ethnic groups is officially recognised by the government, with its origins in the 1982 Citizenship Law. Organisers of the Patriotic and United Party’s registration bid nonetheless appear to have wagered that incorporating the number in their application might jeopardise prospects for approval.
In recent years, nationalists have increasingly emphasised the codification of citizenship based on the 135 figure, most ardently — and to some, most controversially — to make the case that Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State do not have a legitimate claim to citizenship.
If there was a basis for the political aspirants’ decision to drop “135” from their proposed party’s name, it might be found in concern over the Political Parties Registration Law, which contains provisions that include a prohibition on political parties writing, delivering speeches or organising and instigating that might cause conflict or that might affect dignity and morals relating to nationality, religion, individuals or the broader public.