Land reform: A vote-winner for the NLD

With the general election only weeks away – notwithstanding the potential impact of the second wave of COVID-19 – political parties are flooding social media with pledges and promises to woo voters.

For the National League for Democracy, the November 8 election poses a new challenge: how to win an election as the incumbent, defending its record in government, rather than as an opposition promising to sweep in a new era of change? 

The NLD’s meagre list of achievements from its time in office, with little progress achieved on the economy, constitutional reform, the peace process and other domestic issues, means that broad promises to transform the country have become a harder sell for the party.

One policy area that could convince voters – particularly in ethnic minority-dominated regions of the country – that the NLD is committed to bringing about real change involves land. A nationwide poll conducted last year by the International Republican Institute, a non-partisan Washington-based INGO that promotes democracy, indicated that land rights were among the top issues for voters, with 55 percent of respondents describing land grabs as a “serious problem”. In an economy still dominated by agriculture, how land is owned, managed and traded is central to how most communities in Myanmar are able to maintain and sustain their livelihoods. 

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