Election 2020

Myanmar’s Ruling Party to Contest All Seats in Conflict-Torn Rakhine State in November Election

By Min Aung Khine 12 August 2020

SITTWE, Rakhine State—The National League for Democracy (NLD) will contest all the seats up for grabs in Rakhine State in November’s general election, according to party leaders.

Previously, it appeared the party would not be able to field candidates in some townships in northern Rakhine, but some party members put themselves forward at the last minute, so the party can now contest all the constituencies in the state, said U Soe Lay, vice chairman of the NLD’s Rakhine chapter.

“We have submitted candidacy applications to the election commission. We will field candidates for all 45 seats including ethnic minister posts,” U Soe Lay told The Irrawaddy.

He declined to say how many seats the party thinks it will be able to secure in Rakhine State.

U Soe Lay admitted the party faces certain challenges, as local people have a negative view of the NLD government due to the ongoing conflict between government troops and the Arakan Army (AA), an ethnic rebel group that enjoys popular support among Rakhine people, especially in northern Rakhine.

In the 2015 general election, the NLD did not win a single seat in northern Rakhine, but it saw success in the southern part of the state, securing a seat in the Upper House, four seats in the Lower House and nine seats in the Rakhine State parliament, including the Chin ethnic affairs minister position.

The Arakan National Party—the result of a merger between the Arakan League for Democracy (ALD) and the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party—won the most seats in the last election. But this year, there will be at least three rival Rakhine parties, as a group left the ANP and re-established the ALD, and another group of ANP members left to form a new party known as the Arakan Front Party, which is led by the son of imprisoned politician Dr. Aye Maung.

NLD Central Information Unit secretary Monywa Aung Shin admitted that the party is unlikely to repeat its 2015 victory in Rakhine this time.

“At first, the party considered not fielding candidates in some constituencies in Rakhine. Then we decided to run for all the seats. It is difficult to say how many seats we will win. It is likely we will have to struggle in all regions including Rakhine in this year’s election,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Due to the current political landscape, public interest in the general election has declined, even in townships in southern Rakhine like Thandwe, Taungup and Gwa, according to local residents.

“Public interest in the election is low. There is active fighting on the other side [in northern Rakhine], and there are people being detained on this side. So, people don’t want to get involved in politics. Most of the people only care about their livelihoods,” said Thandwe resident Daw Kay Zin Oo.

The Union Election Commission has said the general election will be held on Nov. 8, and has put initial voter lists on display in wards and villages. In northern Rakhine, however, voter lists still cannot be posted in many villages due to instability in those areas, while many locals have shown little interest in checking the voter lists.

A total of 386 candidates from 13 political parties as well as independent candidates have registered to run in the election in Rakhine.

The Rakhine State Election Sub-commission says it plans to open around 2,600 polling stations in Rakhine, which has some 1.64 million eligible voters.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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