NAYPYIDAW — Burma’s ruling party called in a few celebrity favors this week for a final campaign push in the capital, with just two days left to court voters before a Nov. 8 general election.
On Thursday, a star-studded line-up including vocalists Thar Soe and Jenny, as well as singers from Melody World [a popular Burmese singing contest], entertained crowds in Naypyidaw’s downtown quarter of Pyinmana, which has an estimated 120,000 eligible voters.
Hundreds arrived on dozens of trucks and motorbikes to distribute pamphlets about party candidates. Supporters’ cheeks and vehicles were adorned with flags and stickers promoting the party of Burma’s current head of state, reading: “Vote for the lion logo of President Thein Sein’s party.”
“We printed [stickers] like this because we, USDP members, all support the incumbent president and want him to be the next president,” said Win Win Thi, a Lower House candidate for the Pyinmana constituency and secretary of the USDP branch in Pyinmana.
Win Win Thi, 45, is a native of Pyinmina and has been a member of the party since 1997, when it was still known as the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA).
“I’m dedicated to this because I’m interested in social work, and I believe that better work can be done through an organization [the USDP] than on an individual level,” she said on Thursday in the capital, which the party says is home to an estimated 35,000 USDP members.
The party, which will face fierce competition from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in Sunday’s nationwide poll, has in recent months made efforts to court young voters.
Twenty-year-old Yin Yin Theint told The Irrawaddy that she joined the campaign to gain experience.
“Both my father and my uncle are members of the party [the USDP], so I follow it, too,” she said from the back of a decked-out campaign truck.
In addition to the two biggest parties—the USDP and the NLD—the National Unity Party (NUP), the National Democratic Force (NDF), and independent candidate Aung Myint Than are all contesting in the Lower House race for Pyinmana.
With the clock winding down for last-minute pitches, the streets of the capital are thinning out as candidates from all parties have already begun removing campaign materials.
Despite concerns about potential fraud and alleged vote-buying by ruling party candidates, Nov. 8 is expected to be an important milestone for Burma as its freest and fairest election in 25 years.