Burma

USDP Hopes to Win Mon State By-Election

By Hintharnee 29 March 2017

CHAUNGZON, Mon State — U Aung Kyi Thein, a Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) candidate contesting Mon State’s Chaungzon Township by-election on April 1, said the former ruling party has a good chance of winning if it can obtain at least 25,000 votes.

Chaungzon Township is the only Mon State constituency holding by-elections. But to political analysts and observers, it is much more than a vacant seat in Lower House. It is seen as a gauge showing whether or not ethnic support for the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party has declined.

Many Mon locals are upset over the naming of a bridge in their region after independence hero Gen Aung San. Despite their objections, Burma’s Lower House approved the name for the bridge linking Chaungzon and Moulmein (Mawlamyine) townships earlier this month.

The approval created controversy and about 20,000 Mon locals took to the streets to protest the decision.

People in Mon State, however, have little interest in the by-election, according to chairman of the Chaungzon Township election sub-commission U Tun Yi, and other international observers.

“If people were interested in the by-election, there would be crowds of voters checking voter lists at the election commission office. But, there is no one there except the commission chairman and members,” U Tun Yi told The Irrawaddy.

Chaungzon Township comprises 64 villages and lies on Belu Island, on the opposite bank of the Mon State capital of Moulmein.

The township has more than 125,000 eligible voters, according to the township election commission.

“In the 2015 election, only around 60,000 people voted. We estimate that the turnout will be about the same this time. So, we may win with about 25,000 votes and that’s what we’ll aim for,” said U Aung Kyi Thein.

The Chaungzon Township Lower House seat was left vacant by Daw Khin Htay Kywe, who was appointed to the Constitutional Tribunal of the Union.

“Compared to the 2015 general election, people are not as interested in this by-election,” said Manori Kalugampitiya, the leader of Chaungzon Township election monitoring for the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL).

The implementation of the electoral process has significantly improved compared to other Southeast Asian countries, she said.

The NLD, USDP, National Unity Party, Mon National Party and All Mon Region Democracy Party will contest the Chaungzon Township by-election.

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