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1956 General Elections

U NuThe BWPP and the Justice Party allied to form the National United Front to oppose the AFPFL in the elections of 1956. Although the front won only 48 seats in the Chamber of Deputies (55 if its support in the states is counted) as against 173 seats for the AFPFL (including its support in the states), it received nearly 37 percent of the popular vote, with the AFPFL garnering 56 percent. Soon after the election U Nu stepped down from the prime ministership in order to devote his attention to revitalizing and reunifying the AFPFL. He had often threatened to retire permanently from politics, and three of his ministers, U Ba Swe, U Kyaw Nyein, and Thakin Tin, each took the opportunity offered by U Nu's temporary retirement to mobilize personal support for himself as eventual heir to U Nu's primacy.

When U Nu resumed the prime ministership in February 1957, the AFPFL was less unified than ever before. At the AFPFL national congress in January 1958, U Nu asserted that the league could no longer be simply a coalition or a united front but must be a unified political party with its own ideology, which he sought to formulate as socialist but non-Marxist. This was perceived by the socialists in the league as an attack on their independent and dominant position. A split in the AFPFL occurred in March. The "Clean" AFPFL was headed by U Nu and Thuldn Tin, and the Socialist Party leaders, U Ba Swe and U Kyaw Nyein, led the "Stable" AFPFL. The Stable AFPFL was the larger faction, owing to its socialist support; and when it moved into the opposition, U Nu had to win votes of parliamentary members from the National United Front and from minority communities in order to stay in office.

In addition to the competition between AFPFL factions for power within parliament, the growth of politico-military organizations that supported rival leaders and parties encouraged factionalism. For example, the Stable AFPFL had the backing of the Auxiliary Union Military Police, whereas Thakin Tin had the support of the so-called peace guerrillas of the All-Burma Peasants' Organization. In Rangoon a violent clash occurred between the newly established Union Labor Organization of the Clean AFPFL and U Ba Swe's Trade Union Congress, Burma.

The split in the AFPFL also led to armed struggles between political rivals in the rural villages, each side seeking to gain control of the village defense forces that had been set up by the central government to help loyal villagers repel insurgents. The insurgent forces, which had been losing ground throughout the mid-1950. seemed likely to benefit from renewed insecurity in the country unless a strong government took charge. In October 28, 1958, U Nu put forward a motion in the Chamber of Deputies that General Ne Win be offered the prime ministership of a caretaker government.

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Page last modified: 08-10-2011 12:16:48 ZULU