Political Parties in Burma Key to Country’s Democratic Transition

From Rangoon to Arakan, Mandalay to Mon, political parties in Burma are already busy preparing for elections scheduled for 2015.  As the elections approach, IRI is working with the parties as they develop policies and platforms to ensure they are more representative of citizens’ concerns: a critical ingredient in Burma’s democratic transition. 

Through a combination of national and local level workshops, IRI helps the parties as they build their organizational and constituent outreach capacity so they can serve as a conduit between ordinary citizens, national level parties and government.  Over the past nine months, the Institute has conducted workshops in nine of the 14 states and regions in Burma with more than 1,600 political party participants. 

In addition, IRI has assisted a number of local party branch offices in largely ethnic areas, including Shan, Mon and Kachin states, with a targeted, mentorship program in which IRI provides a series of tailored consultations on organizational and communication strategies directly in local party offices. 

Parties are also beginning to institutionalize new practices to engage with constituents, such as creating job positions for volunteer outreach and creating local branch office strategic plans.  As the chairman of the Kachin State National Congress for Democracy, an ethnic party in the north of country, stated, “We are using these techniques out there right now.”

The Institute’s program has already witnessed real changes at the grassroots level in the ways parties operate.  A member of the division executive committee from the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, noted that “IRI’s program was actually effective to us because now we organize in many villages using what we learned.” 

The impact of these programs continues to resonate far beyond those with whom IRI works.  More than 500 party members have attended workshops conducted by party members that have participated in IRI’s programs, further extending the scope and breadth of the Institute’s work. 

Parties play a vital role in supporting Burma’s democratic transition and through IRI’s work they are gaining critical skills to ensure that the voices of ordinary citizens are heard in the democratic process. 

IRI’s political party programming in Burma is supported with funding from the United States Agency for International Development, the National Endowment for Democracy and Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada.

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