Arakan Youths’ Survey Proving Youngsters Are Less Interested in Electoral Politics But Keen in Armed Struggle for Greater Autonomy. Needs of More Works on Political Parties for Institutionalization and Pluralist Representation and Smart Leadership in Order to Attract Youngsters to Join in Politics
July 23, 2020
Kyaw Lunn. Yangon. July 23, 2020.
A newly founded CSO platform by active young Arakanese, Amnesty Arakan Team (AAT), had conducted a 5-days survey on July 9-13, 2020. The survey title was Why Active Young Arakanese People Do Not Participate in the Party Politics in Arakan.
It contained three main questions such as “Why do not you participate in the political parties in Arakan?; How to approach them,? and ‘What kind of politics do you hope in the future of Arakan?’
One hundred and sixty four young Araknese responded the questions.
There are 5 Charts illustrating from residential townships, ages, and political questions.
Individual charts breaks down in percentage with color mark from Chart 1 to Chart 5.
Below Chart 1 and Chart 2 are respondents’ residential townships and ages. The highest respondent of 29.9% are from Maungdaw township.
On Chart 2, the highest and 72.2% of respondents are age between 20 and 30.
Chart 1. Respondent’s Location Township
Chart 2. Age of Respondents
Detail of Responses
The total response is 164 persons. It includes great demographic origins of diversity as of 52% comprising three Northern townships ( Sittwe 29%, Min-Bra 13%, and Mrauk-U 9%) while two southern townships amounts to 16% (Kyauk-Phyu 8% and Rambree 5%). Yagon region stands at the fifth by 7% of the entire participants.
In terms of gender and age, male to female ratio expresses as 60% to 40% while 73% of the respondents’ ages are between 20 and 30 while the second majority (13%) is of 16 to 20 aged. In addition, the third largest one is of those 30 to 35 comprising 10 %.
Below three charts are contained with the details and analysis of responses.
Chart 3 explains political question for young men and women why they are not willing to participate Arakanese political parties. There three main Arakanese national parties, Arakan Front Party (AFP), Arakan League for Democracy (ALD) and Arakan National Party (ANP).
Our question goes like “Why do not you participate in the political parties in Arakan?’
The responses are 27% of respondents said they do not want to participate in the party due to the weak communication between the parties and public. They said there are lack of belief in the party and electoral politics, composed to 21% as the second main one.
The third biggest majority group (14%) to this question picks the selection, ‘They do not want to participate in politics’. Only around 10% (the fourth largest) prefer ‘Due to aggressive competition between the main Rakhine political parties’ while ‘Lack of security’ and ‘High personal attack and strong dogmatism within the political parties’ both constitute 8.7 %. Materialistic options they believe it is ‘Lack of benefits and salary’ is minimum.
Chart 3. Reason given by respondents why they did not want to involve in party politics
Detail Responses on Chart 4
Looking at the response of the question in the Chart 4, the majority respondents are not participating in the politics because of the failure of the public policy from the political parties while the second one is about the dynamicity of Arakan politics that most young people think electoral politics supplies less chance to achieve their aspirations.
Then, the third response is about the political culture of the people that they think politics is not a good place to involve with. The results can be summarized as ‘Arakan still needs more institutionalized and influential political parties while having more chance to achieve their rights in democratic ways’.
Chart 4. Seeking advices how youngster participate in party politics
The results of the second question: ‘How should we approach the active Arakanese young people to participate in the party politics?’
The respondents include the largest (29%) as ‘Need more training for young people’ while 28% (the second largest) says ‘Need smart leaders within the party’. Then the third majority (24%) expresses ‘Need strong party policies’ while 9% calls for ‘More chance for young female Arakanese’.
Again, the highest group demanded more public relations from the political party, and it is also similar with the largest radical (Weak communication from the political parties) of the first question.
The second largest one may point out the lack of prominent political leaderships within the political parties in Arakan. It may concurrent with the rise of leadership of Arakan Army and its political wing United League of Arakan (ULA/AA) in the armed political environment.
This factor also shows the deficiency of charismatic political leaders in the electoral politics in the post-Dr. Aye Maung era and the electoral party leaders are shadowed by the boost of armed organization’s leadership like General Twan Mrat Naing and Vice-Commander Dr. Nyo Twan Awng in Arakan politics.
Then, the third largest factor of ‘Need Strong Party Politics’ questions the institutionalization of the political party by which the newcomers are roomed and tasked within the party.
None of the political parties in Arakan like AFP, ALD, and ANP is institutionalized enough comparatively with other non-Burma ethnic political parties like Shan National League for Democracy (SNLD), Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), and the like.
Political parties in Arakan are even far less institutionalized than Burma proper parties like Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and National League for Democracy (NLD), etc.
The degree of institutionalization, according to Samuel P. Huntington, is measured by four criteria called 1. Adaptability, 2. Autonomy, 3. Complexity, and 4. Coherence. None of political parties in Arakan succeeds over such dimensions than the rest political parties mentioned above.
Chart 5. Seeking for future political outlook in Arakan State
On account of the third question, ‘How do you hope for the future of political parties in Arakan?’
The results are really striking on the sustainability of political parties in Arakan. The largest group answers as ‘I want ULA/AA to control all aspects of Arakan politics’ in 28% while the second greatest crop (23%) demands for ‘I want Arakan political party covering all ethnic and religious groups in Arakan’.
Besides, 21 % (the third largest) of the respondents ask for ‘I want only one Rakhine political party purely representing Rakhine speaking people’. It could be found that the greater majority prefers an armed group rather than an electoral political party in their future. It could be due to the lack of belief in electoral politics in achieving their aspiration related with the second largest (20%) responses to the first question as ‘Due to the lack of belief in party and electoral politics’.
Looking at the results more concentratedly, armed politics is more popular in Arakan than the electoral one, and this also relates with the question of federalization by the central government and beyond the control of local political actors.
However, responding to the second largest demand on this question, it is about the scope of political parties in Arakan whether they can represent all ethnic and religious people in this area, or simply only Rakhine speaking people.
The second and third largest demands are comparatively close in percentage, but it is important to care more about diversity and pluralism to cover a broader population in this area.
Despite the second largest respondents demand for the inclusion of all religious and ethnic groups within Arakan party, only 4% calls for the cooperation with Muslim people. The third largest respondents who want only Rakhine people representing parties can be hostile to the cooperation with all non-indigenous Muslim people as they call themselves Rohingya.
In line with the original purpose of this survey, AAT has intended to find out reasons why most young people do not participate in the political parties in Arakan, and how to approach them, and then what kind of political parties they wish to see in the future political environment.
In short, the political parties in Arakan need 1. more public communication especially to young people, 2. more training for the active youths, 3. more diverse representation to all ethnic and religious groups in the areas, 4. smart and charismatic leaders within the parties, 5. more constructive and less aggressive competition and finally, and 6. strong party policies for the members.
AAT also believes these results could provide technical advice to those CSOs, NGOs and INGOs developing the political environment and youth participation in Arakan. Another important of the part of the survey could be for the government and political think tanks and scholars to think about how to do: 1. to promote more belief in the electoral and party politics for young people, and 2. to build more democratization than militarization as majority of young people show their belief more on the armed party than the electoral one.
From the perspective of AAT, the results can be summarized on the line that those who are interested in political affairs are more pluralist in choosing the question whether they want only Rakhine speaking people parties or the one covering all ethnic and religious ones. Then, in terms of gender divergence, more female responses want more electoral politics in plural form whereas more males cry out of lacking belief in electoral politics calling for armed groups to control radically.
Note: The writer is Kyaw Lynn, a graduate student at Yangon University with Political Science and one of the founders of the Amnesty Arakan Team AAT who has been thrown into the jail by Burmese judge since July 23 for a peaceful protest.