Election 2020

NLD Performs Strongly in Kachin State, Dashing Ethnic Party’s Hopes

By Nan Lwin 10 November 2020

YANGON—Defying predictions that local people’s dissatisfaction with the ruling party’s broken promises would see it lose several seats to its homegrown Kachin rival, the National League for Democracy took a majority of both Union and state parliaments seats up for grabs in Kachin State in Sunday’s election.

Although the Union Election Commission (UEC) has yet to finalize the election outcome in Kachin, initial counts at polling stations revealed that NLD candidates had won 22 of the state’s 30 Lower and Upper house constituencies as of Tuesday afternoon.

U S Ko Mar, the president of the NLD’s head office in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin, said the party was also set to secure one more seat covering townships in the northernmost part of the country where ballots were still being counted.

The 22 Union Parliament seats won so far by the NLD in Kachin include 10 of the 12 Upper House seats available and 12 of 18 Lower House seats, according to the NLD head office’s records.

The NLD needed one more Union Parliament seat to surpass the 22 it won in the 2015 general election.

Surprisingly, all the incumbent ministers handpicked by the NLD government, including Chief Minister U Hkyet Awng; Minister for Natural Resources and Environment Dashi La Seng; Minister for Transport, Electricity and Industry U Win Nyunt, Municipal Minister U Naw Li; Minister for Immigration and Human Resources U Nay Win, Minister for Social Welfare U Zaw Win; and Finance and Planning Minister U Wai Lin, all won reelection to their respective seats in Sunday’s election. Almost all of them have been accused of performing poorly by the Kachin public in recent years.

U Hkyet Awng told The Irrawaddy he was not sure whether he would continue to serve as Kachin’s chief minister in the upcoming government, but added that he would keep focusing on achieving a lasting peace in the state.

He said that only peace could bring about the rule of law and development in Kachin State.

According to the NLD, it had also won 24 of the 36 seats in the state parliament as of Tuesday afternoon.

The party lost four seats in the Lower House to the military-aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) covering Sumprabum, Mansi, Kawnglanghpu and Chipwe townships, and a seat in the Lower House to the Kachin State People’s Party (KSPP) in Injangyang Township.

The KSPP said it had won four seats so far—a Lower House and a state parliament seat in Injangyang Township, and one state parliament seat each in Sumprabum and Momauk townships. A total of 67 candidates from the KSPP contested the election.

The party formed through a merger of six homegrown Kachin parties in the hope of winning a majority of both the Union Parliament’s Kachin State seats and seats in the state legislature, saying that a victory would grant them more authority to improve their rights. Its ultimate aim is to unseat the NLD, as it believes the party has failed to deliver satisfactory development or improvements in the state.

A USDP candidate defeated KSPP Vice Chair Gumgrawng Awng Hkam in the race for a Lower House seat in Sumprabum Township. Gumgrawng Awng Hkam said local people voted for the KSPP, but a large number of advance votes by military personnel boosted the USDP’s candidate result and cost him the seat.

Awng Hkam said the election result fell far short of the KSPP’s prediction before the election that it would win a majority in the state parliament and win most of Kachin State’s seats in the Union Parliament. He said the Kachin State chief minister’s false claims against the KSPP had impacted the election result.

Just before the election, local Kachin media quoted the chief minister as saying during campaign events that the KSPP is allied with the USDP.

“It made the public change their mind. It severely impacted our result,” Awng Hkam said.

Zahkung Ying Sau, the son of Zahkung Ting Ying, the leader of the New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDAK) militia group in northern Kachin State, was reelected to his seat in the Kachin State parliament. He represents Chipwe Township for the New Democracy Party-Kachin (NDP-Kachin), which was formed in February last year. Another candidate from the NDP won an Upper House seat representing militia-held Chipwe and Tsawlaw townships. A total of 13 representatives of the NDP-Kachin submitted candidate applications to contest the election.

NLD Myitkyina office chief U S Ko Mar said his party had been under severe pressure due to speculation among both local and foreign observers that the NLD would see severe losses in ethnic-dominated states.

“The election was quite challenging for us, because we heard various opinions that the ethnic parties would beat us. It worried us a lot,” he said.

He added that a sharp rise in tensions between the military and government just before the election over weaknesses in the UEC’s performance may have affected the result. The military’s move alarmed Myanmar people and caused them to throw their support behind the NLD to ensure the democratic transition moves forward, he added.

“I think…. people still believe that the NLD is the only party that can realize their hopes,” U S Ko Mar said.

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