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Politics

Burma’s Opposition Parties Welcome Cancelation of By-Elections

The Union Election Commission chief’s surprise announcement that the 35 empty seats will not be contested this year is met with relief.


RANGOON— Opposition political parties in Burma have welcomed the decision by the Union Election Commission (UEC) to cancel by-elections previously planned for later this year.

UEC chairman Tin Aye told a meeting of political parties in Rangoon on Sunday that the UEC will not hold polls to fill the 35 parliamentary seats currently sitting empty.

According to the New Light of Myanmar, Tin Aye explained that holding by-elections less than a year ahead of the highly anticipated national elections was unnecessary and would be burdensome for both the political parties and the election body itself, with important constitutional and electoral reforms currently in progress.

Nyan Win, spokesman for the National League for Democracy (NLD), told The Irrawaddy that the party welcomed the decision.

“We accept the cancelation. We were hurrying to prepare to participate in the by-elections. Now we have more time to prepare for the 2015 general elections,” he said.

Nyan Win said the decision was the UEC’s to make, but noted that the commission should not have repeatedly announced contradictory decisions.

“[The decision] is under the UEC’s authority,” he said. “About the by-elections, they said earlier that they wouldn’t hold them, then they said they would, and now again they said they won’t. It shouldn’t be like that although they have the authority to do so by law.”

Khin Maung Swe, chairman of the National Democratic Force (NDF), said that since only 35 seats would have been up for grabs, the results would not have been enough to alter events in Naypyidaw, where the Union Solidarity and Development Party holds a majority.

“Small parties are not rich enough to be able to afford to run in both the by-elections and the general elections next year, which are very close,” he said.

Khin Maung Swe said the NDF had been planning to compete for 20 seats at the by-elections, which would cost the party 300,000 kyat (about US$300) to register and more than 3 million kyat (about $3,000) to campaign for each constituency.

“The small parties are happy with [the cancelation] because if they didn’t compete for at least three places in the by-elections, their parties’ registration would have been withdrawn,” he said, referring to a rule in Burma’s election laws.

Phaw Lar Kam Phang, general secretary from Unity and Democracy Party, said that the party—based in Kachin State, where four constituencies are currently without representation—had decided not to enter the by-elections anyway due to time and budgetary constraints.

“It is a weakness of UEC because they told us again and again that they will hold the by-elections and now they cancel it when it is close to taking place,” he said.

“The representatives who won in the by-elections would have had only a little time before the next election. And so it would have been difficult for them to work in parliament.”