Election 2020

NLD Wins in Kayah State, But Loses Ground to Ethnic Party

By Zue Zue 10 November 2020

In Kayah State, the smallest of Myanmar’s states and regions, the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) won 20 of 34 total parliamentary seats in Sunday’s general election, according to the party’s Kayah State chapter. Its victory was narrower this year than in the previous general election, however, as the NLD lost seats to the locally based Kayah State Democratic Party (KySDP), which won in eight constituencies.

The NLD won all of the seats in four townships—Loikaw, Mese, Hpasaung and Demoso—but lost in the state’s other constituencies, according to U Soe Yar Zar Win, the head of the NLD’s campaign team in Kayah State.

The KySDP, a new ethnic political party, secured eight seats in Pruso and Shardaw townships, while the USDP won six seats in two townships—Shardaw and its stronghold of Bawlakhe.

The KySDP was formed through a merger between the Kayah Nationalities Democracy Party and the Kayah State’s All Nationalities Democracy Party, both of which failed to win a seat in the 2015 election. The KySDP also allied with the Kayan National Party this year, agreeing to split the state’s constituencies between them.

In 2015, the NLD won 26 seats, while the USDP took seven and an independent candidate won a seat. In this year’s race the NLD lost six of its seats.

U Soe Yar Zar Win, a member of the NLD’s Kayah State executive committee, told The Irrawaddy, “We didn’t win the election as we had expected. However, one good thing that came out of it is that we learned some lessons and can prepare for next time.”

Although the Union Election Commission has not yet announced final election results, data collected by Karenni youth election observers and the NLD chapter confirmed the seat count.

KySDP secretary Khu Thae Reh said the results fell short of the party’s hopes of winning at least 75 percent of seats. “We cannot be satisfied with the current situation. We tried, but we did not win a majority,” he said.

He added that many in the state still do not fully understand the importance of having a stronger ethnic political party.

He claimed the people voted for the NLD partly “because they received assistance when the ruling government was providing cash and material support to the families as part of assistance during COVID-19; they didn’t know if it was support from the government or from the NLD.”

However, Ko Kyaw Htin Aung, an observer of the Kayah State election, said the results were satisfactory, given that the KySDP’s support had risen from zero in 2015 to 20 percent this year.

He helped campaign for the NLD in the previous election, but shifted his support after the NLD’s Kayah State government ignored locals’ voices regarding the issue of the General Aung San statue.

“The NLD lost support due to its mismanagement, [its poor handling of] ethnic equality and [erecting] the General Aung San statue over the people’s objections,” said Ko Kyaw Htin Aung. He added that if the NLD had listened, they would have gotten more support in the campaign period.

Former Kayah State chief minister L Phaung Sho, who was impeached for misuse of state funds, was reelected in his Mese constituency No. 2 with the support of 74.4 percent of voters.

He vowed to correct any weaknesses and to improve his work performance, in a post on his Facebook page after voting results were confirmed.

A total of 238 candidates, including 13 independents and candidates from 12 political parties, contested in 34 constituencies in Kayah State. Its population of more than 300,000 includes 207,000 eligible voters.

Nyein Nyein contributed to this report.