Residents of Shan State’s Mong Hsu and Kyethi Head to the Polls

By Nang Lwin Hnin Pwint 1 April 2017

RANGOON — Constituents of Mong Hsu and Kyethi townships of central Shan State bucked a nationwide trend of low voter turnout in Burma’s by-elections on Saturday.

More than 15,000 out of 42,745 eligible voters cast their ballots across Mong Hsu Township’s 44 polling stations before 1p.m., according to the Union Electoral Commission (UEC).

Polling for the 2015 general election in the two constituencies was called off due to conflict in the area, leaving six lawmaker seats empty—two each in the Shan State regional parliament and one each in the Union parliament’s two houses.

U Thein Win, chairman of the UEC in Mong Hsu Township said: “I was worried that not so many people would show up as there has been low interest in this by-election. But, I feel relieved as people have come to vote today.”

Daw Nang Kham, a local resident in Mong Hsu Township told The Irrawaddy that she and her five family members had all voted in Saturday’s by-election.

“We didn’t get a chance to vote in 2015 as we fled our home because of fighting,” she said, referring to clashes between the Burma Army and the Shan State Army-North in November 2015.

Turnout was also relatively high across many of Kyethi’s 58 polling stations, according to local observers.

U Sai Thant Zin, a candidate representing the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) in Kyethi Township said: “locals are interested in casting ballots—they came to vote.”

The seats were contested by the ruling NLD, the Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP), the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), and other ethnic parties.

However, the scene in two other Shan State constituencies holding by-elections—Kengtung and Nyaung Shwe townships—matched the low turnout witnessed in other parts of the country.

Out of 62,897 eligible voters in Nyaung Shwe Township, only 12,000 voters had cast their ballots by 11a.m., according to U Sein Win of the UEC.

The secretary of the UEC in Kengtung Township said that “only a few hundred came to vote,” in that constituency by 10 a.m., four hours after stations opened.