By-Elections to be Held on April 1, 18 Seats Up for Grabs

By Nyein Nyein 12 October 2016

Burma’s Union Election Commission announced on Tuesday that by-elections for 18 vacant seats in the Union and regional parliaments would be held on April 1 next year.

Included will be the six constituencies in Kyethi and Mong Hsu townships of central Shan State—one each for the Lower House of the Union Parliament and two each for the state parliament—that were cancelled during the Nov. 2015 general election due to fighting between the Burma Army and the Shan State Army-North.

The other seats in the by-elections are being contested because the elected lawmakers have been appointed as ministers in the government, requiring them to vacate their seats, and because of two untimely deaths.

Seats for other townships that were cancelled outright for the 2015 general election will not be contested in the by-elections. These include Panghsang, Mongma, Narphan and Panwai townships, which are under the control of the United Wa State Army in northern Shan State, and Mongla Township, which is under the control of the National Democratic Alliance Army in eastern Shan State.

In total, nine seats will be up for grabs in the Lower House, three in the Upper House, and six in state and divisional parliaments.

In the Lower House, the seats are for the following townships: Monywa in Sagaing Division, Chaungzon in Mon State, Ann in Arakan state, and Hlaing Tharyar, Dagon Myothit, East Dagon and Kawhmu in Rangoon Division, as well as Kyethi and Mong Hsu in Shan State.

In the Upper House, the seats are Chin State-3, located in Thantlang Township, Pegu Division-4, which includes Kyauktaga and Nyaunglebin townships, and Rangoon Division-6, which includes Kamayut, Kyimyindaing, Seikkan, Latha, Hlaing, Lanmadaw and Ahlone townships.

Across regional parliaments, the seats are Hpruso Township-1 in Karenni State, and Kengtung Township-2 in Shan State, as well the four in Kyethi and Mong Hsu townships.

This represents a significant reduction in the number of seats being contested relative to Burma’s last set of by-elections, in April 2012, where 45 seats were ultimately contested—with the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi winning 43, marking their landmark entry into Parliament.

This reduction is due in large part to the National League for Democracy-led government—which assumed power in April this year—slashing the number of ministries, resulting in a smaller cabinet, as well as the decision to appoint more ministers from outside of Parliament.

The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), which performed well across Shan State in the 2015 election—beating the NLD in the state but coming behind the former ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP)—said it would contest all seven seats up for grabs in Kyethi, Mong Hsu and Kengtung townships.

Sai Leik, a spokesperson for the SNLD, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that candidates would be decided on “after our central committee meeting in the coming weeks.”

In the 2015 election, the NLD won 886 out of 1150 elected seats across the Union and regional parliaments. The USDP came second with 117 seats, followed by the Arakan National Party with 45 and the SNLD with 40.