NLD Wins Nearly Half of By-Election Seats Amid Low Voter Turnout

By Tin Htet Paing 2 April 2017

RANGOON — The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) won nine out of 19 available seats in union and regional parliaments in Saturday’s by-elections although less than 40 percent of the two million eligible voters cast their ballots, according to initial data from the Union Election Commission (UEC).

A total of 24 political parties contested seats in five states and three divisions—Rangoon, Bago and Sagaing divisions, and Arakan, Shan, Chin, Karenni, and Mon states.

The country’s main opposition party the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) registered candidates for all seats—winning two—and the ruling NLD contested 18.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won five seats in the Lower House, three in the Upper House, and one in Shan State regional parliament.

NLD’s senior spokesperson U Win Htein told The Irrawaddy his party didn’t win in the other nine constituencies as most eligible voters didn’t go to the polls to cast their ballots, saying that he had “expected” the low turnout.

Turnout for Burma’s historic 2015 general election was 69 percent.

The NLD fared poorly in Shan State constituencies gaining only one seat in Nyaung Shwe Township for the regional parliament. The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) won four regional parliament seats in Kyethi and Mong Hsu and the USDP won one in Kengtung.

Dr. Aye Maung of the Arakan National Party (ANP) won a Lower House seat in Arakan State’s Ann Township and Pu Bawi Khing of the NLD won an Upper House seat in Chin State Constituency No. 3 in Thantlang Township.

U Thae Reh of the All Nationals’ Democracy Party Kayah State won a regional parliament seat in Karenni State’s Hpruso Township where the NLD’s nominated candidate failed to register his candidacy with the district election sub-commission in time last year.

In Mon State’s Chaungzon Township—where the NLD has courted controversy for persisting in naming a new bridge after Gen. Aung San despite local protests—USDP’s U Aung Kyi Thein got 42 percent of nearly 50,000 ballots while NLD’s U Aye Win got only 27 percent

However, U Aung Kyi Thein told The Irrawaddy that he didn’t believe his victory was related to the bridge controversy, describing them as “separate issues.”

U Aung Kyi Thein added he is a native Mon who contributes to the welfare of people in the region. He said supporters of USDP and the former president U Thein Sein made his victory in Chaungzon Township possible.

Among the 19 constituencies, Chin State’s Thantlang Township got the highest voter turnout with over 21,000 out of some 28,000 eligible voters casted their ballots, according to UEC data.

UEC chairman U Hla Thein said on Sunday afternoon that the by-elections had been held successfully and peacefully.

The Irrawaddy’s reporter Phay Thet Htet Khin contributed to this report from Naypyidaw.