Nearly 6,200 Parliament Hopefuls File to Contest Election

By San Yamin Aung 17 August 2015

RANGOON — A whopping 6,189 candidates have applied to contest the nearly 1,200 seats up for grabs between the Union Parliament and regional legislatures in Burma’s Nov. 8 general election.

With the window for candidate applications closing last Friday, the country’s Union Election Commission (UEC) said it had received 1,772 applications for the Union Parliament’s Lower House, 913 for the Upper House and 3,504 for state and divisional legislatures. The regional figure includes 163 parliamentary hopefuls looking to contest seats allocated to ethnic affairs representatives.

Among those candidates, Vice President Nyan Tun is seeking to contest the Lower House seat in Pegu Division’s Zigon Township, with the senior administration official filing for candidature at the 11th hour after his party, the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), had previously indicated that he would not run.

Win Maung, head of the Pegu Division UEC subcommission, told The Irrawaddy that the vice president personally filed his papers on Friday and would run as a member of the USDP.

The USDP had said at a press conference on Wednesday that the vice president would sit out the poll, but a dramatic leadership reshuffle set in motion later that same day could explain the about-face.

The party on Wednesday night removed Shwe Mann from his position as party chairman and expelled other members of the party’s central committee, the most prominent casualties of a broader party restructuring.

Burma’s other vice president, Sai Mauk Kham, will also contest the Lower House seat of Shan State’s Lashio Township on the USDP ticket.

In an announcement on Sunday, the USDP said that its members would contest 320 seats in the Lower House, 166 in the Upper House and 624 for regional parliaments, including all 29 seats allocated to ethnic affairs representatives, in the upcoming election.

“The USDP will contest in total 1,139 seats, and all party members will cooperate to enable a free and fair election,” the announcement read.

UEC Director Thein Oo said the country’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), had submitted the most candidate applications, totaling more than 1,150, followed by the USDP and the National Unity Party (NUP). Through Thursday of last week, the NUP had filed 730 candidate applications.

The commission on Tuesday will begin the process of scrutinizing candidates, with the vetting scheduled to conclude on Aug. 27. Parties are permitted to withdraw their nominations through Monday.

Subject to the results of the candidate scrutiny, Burma’s 2015 election could see as many as 92 parties and 323 independents vying for voters’ favor. The country’s last general election in 2010 involved 37 parties fielding a total of 3,069 candidates. More than 2,200 candidates contested in a 1990 election, the results of which were ignored by Burma’s former military regime.

A total of 1,171 seats are up for election on Nov. 8, breaking down to 330 seats in the Lower House, 168 in the upper chamber and 673 in regional legislatures.