New Myanmar parties rally support with eye on 2020 general election

Two new parties in Myanmar have been set up in recent months as the country counts down to next year's general election. One is filled with former student activists who rose against the ruling junta in 1988 - but decided to stand apart from the governing National League for Democracy. The other is packed with former generals and led by a retired officer said to have been a close associate of former regime leader Than Shwe. The Straits Times speaks to both of them.

Long-time Myanmar political activist Ko Ko Gyi, chairman of the new People's Party, says "the army cannot deny constitutional amendment forever. Someday, it has to change".
Long-time Myanmar political activist Ko Ko Gyi, chairman of the new People's Party, says "the army cannot deny constitutional amendment forever. Someday, it has to change".ST PHOTO: TAN HUI YEE
Former general Soe Maung now leads the Democratic Party of National Politics. He says an ideal leader for Myanmar should be even-handed in dealing with the different ethnic groups. ST PHOTO: TAN HUI YEE
Former general Soe Maung now leads the Democratic Party of National Politics. He says an ideal leader for Myanmar should be even-handed in dealing with the different ethnic groups. ST PHOTO: TAN HUI YEE

Mr Ko Ko Gyi is a leading political activist of his generation. Like many students who rose against Myanmar's then junta in 1988, he was jailed for long periods in the succeeding two decades but finally walked out of prison in 2012, just in time to help democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi enter Parliament through a historic by-election.

When the general election came around in 2015, he was passed over as a candidate by Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party. In fact, most of the so-called "88 Generation" of activists were left out of her slate, fuelling anticipation that the pro-democracy forces that united in 2015 to defeat a military-backed ruling party would splinter.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2019, with the headline 'Elections in Myanmar'. Print Edition | Subscribe