Two USDP Lawmakers Lose Seats After Election Tribunal Ruling

By Htet Naing Zaw 17 November 2016

NAYPYIDAW — A post-election tribunal has ruled that the election of two Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) lawmakers in Mandalay’s Yamethin Township was invalid, reversing the election results.

Parliamentary hopefuls from the National League for Democracy (NLD) filed electoral objections last December against former Burma Army Major U Ko Ko Naing and U Kyaw Myint, the former divisional minister of electric power and industry, alleging that the two candidates had invoked religion on the campaign trail.

U Kyaw Myint was elected to Mandalay’s Parliament to represent Yamethin Constituency No. 2, while U Ko Ko Naing won the township’s Lower House seat. U Ko Ko Naing is also a member of the Union Parliament’s Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission led by former Lower House Speaker U Shwe Mann.

At the Union Election Commission (UEC) election tribunal hearing on Thursday, the two lawmakers had their seats revoked and given to the NLD candidates who had fielded the cases against them.

“The election commission has decided that it was obvious they had used race and religion in their 2015 general election campaigns and we can present evidence,” NLD candidate Aung Myo Oo, who lost his divisional contest to Kyaw Myint in last year’s November election, said.

The NLD candidates had previously said that U Kyaw Myint and U Ko Ko Naing collaborated with Buddhist monks with ties to the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion—a group of ultranationalist Buddhists accused of spreading hate speech and fanning communal violence, also known by the Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha—at public rallies during the election campaign. The monks, along with the USDP candidates, praised the four so-called “race and religion” laws and told voters not to vote for the NLD.

The four laws, which ushered in new restrictions on interfaith marriage, birth spacing, religious conversion and polygamy, were enacted in early 2015.

The electoral objections against the two USDP lawmakers were dismissed in September but the NLD candidates appealed to the election commission.

According to the election commission, more than 40 tribunal cases that were filed with the UEC against successful candidates await a final decision.