One of Burma’s strongest ethnic political parties, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), has expressed disappointment at the decision of the country’s national election body to cancel voting in two more townships of Shan State.
In a statement released by the Union Election Commission (UEC) on Tuesday afternoon, the commission said the Nov. 8 poll would be canceled in the entirety of Mong Hsu and Kyethi townships, as well as eight village-tracts in Tangyan Township and 42 village-tracts in Hopang Township.
With fighting between government troops and the Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army-North (SSPP/SSA-N) in the area in recent weeks, the UEC said the situation was not “conducive to free and fair elections.”
Sai Tun Aye (also known as Sai Win Aye), the SNLD’s Lower House candidate for Mong Hsu Township, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that “the party had expected such a cancellation of the poll.”
However, he said the UEC’s announcement came shortly before the party had planned to submit a list of 5,000 signatures to the election sub-commission for Loilen district, which encompasses Mong Hsu and Kyethi townships, in favor of holding the poll in conflict-affected areas.
The Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), a political rival of the SNLD, supported postponing the election in areas affected by fighting and submitted a request to that effect to the UEC last week.
Sai Tun Aye, who had already campaigned in all 24 village tracts in Mong Hsu Township, said that, after the cancellation, “the public has now lost their representatives in parliament.”
Aung Than Win, a National League for Democracy candidate for a Lower House seat in Kyethi Township, was pragmatic about the announcement which would cause him to abruptly halt his campaign.
“The UEC said that its reason [for the cancellation] was fighting in parts of Shan State. If the government does not guarantee security for election campaigning, we cannot do anything,” he said.
At least 3,000 civilians from Mong Hsu, Kyethi and Tangyan townships have reportedly been forced from their homes because of conflict between the Burma Army and SSPP/SSA-N troops since Oct. 6.
In a previous announcement on Oct. 13, the UEC said that the election would not be held in more than 400 village-tracts across four states and one division, including 56 village-tracts in eight Shan State townships.