Political parties matter for political analysis, yet they have rarely been examined closely in relation to Myanmar’s trajectory in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Some parties, such as the AFPFL, the BSPP, the NLD, and the USDP, have shaped Myanmar at critical historical junctures or continue to exert a strong influence over its current development.
But while we are aware of the important role political parties play, we know little beyond their history and political manifestos. Are traditional party types (elite party, mass party, catch-all party, cartel party, clientelist party, cleavage-based party) relevant in the context of Myanmar, or are we better off using novel categorisations? What kinds of party systems have existed in Myanmar and how have they influenced the current party system? How do party patronage networks work? What characterises the patterns of interparty competition in Myanmar, and what effect do parties have on Myanmar’s political transformation?
When it comes to political parties in Myanmar there are more questions than answers. “Shaping Past, Present, and Future: Political Parties and State Transformation in Myanmar” will bring together leading scholars on Myanmar to explore these questions and will provide a forum for the discussion of political parties in Myanmar. We intend to produce an edited publication from the conference, but we will invite participants to discuss which format would be most useful, especially given the relevance of the topic to communities in Myanmar. Simultaneous translation from English to Burmese will be provided.