Official campaigning for Burma’s general election kicked off on Sept. 8. While the opening weeks of the contest saw most parties keeping a low profile, candidates from the country’s two biggest parties, the ruling USDP and opposition NLD, made their presences felt, with door-to-door campaigning, parades and rallies aimed at courting voters ahead of the historic Nov. 8 vote.
The Irrawaddy presents a selection of images from throughout the last year, which has seen anticipation build toward a high-stakes general election expected in November. The Union Election Commission (UEC), political parties and Parliament have all been busy preparing for the polls, which democracy advocates hope will be Burma’s first free and fair nationwide vote in 25 years.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) organized a series of rallies across Burma in 2014, with thousands of people turning out to support the opposition leader’s campaign for constitutional reform. The rallies in the commercial capital Rangoon, remote Loikaw and elsewhere ultimately failed to convince enough parliamentarians to change the charter ahead of this year's election.
The National League for Democracy convened its first-ever party congress in March 2013, inviting over 900 delegates from across the country to Rangoon. The party, founded in 1988 as Burma was in the throes of a nationwide pro-democracy uprising, had never previously held a congress due to the repressive approach that the country’s former military regime adopted toward the opposition party.
Burma held a by-election in April 2012 for 45 open parliamentary seats. The country’s largest opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), fielded candidates in 44 of the races, winning 43 of those seats in a landslide victory. NLD chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi was among the candidates to contest, with the opposition leader and Nobel laureate dominating her race in Rangoon’s Kawhmu Township.
The 2010 election was widely viewed as flawed, with the military-backed USDP winning more than 75 percent of parliamentary seats in a poll that nonetheless marked the beginning of Burma's transition to quasi-civilian governance. President Thein Sein, formerly a senior member of the preceding military regime, has since enacted a series of political and economic reforms that prompted the lifting of Western sanctions.