NLD and USDP to Contest All Seats in By-Elections

By San Yamin Aung 28 October 2016

RANGOON — With the designated schedule for the April by-elections announced last week, Burma’s two biggest political parties have said they will contest for all vacant parliamentary seats.

U Nyan Win, one of the secretaries of the ruling party—the National League for Democracy (NLD)—told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the party will race for all 19 vacant seats in the Union and regional parliaments up for grabs in the by-elections, which will be held on April 1.

The Union Election Commission (UEC) has announced that the elections will be held to fill the seats in Rangoon, Sagaing and Pegu divisions, and Shan, Karenni, Mon, Chin and Arakan states.

The seats were left open due to ministerial appointments, which require selected lawmakers to vacate their seats, as well as three deaths. Elections for representatives in six constituencies in Kesi (Kyethi) and Mong Hsu townships of central Shan State were cancelled due to armed conflict during the 2015 election.

The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) is also contesting all vacant Shan State seats, including those in Kesi and Mong Hsu; the party won seats in many of the surrounding Shan State townships in 2015.

“Our target is to win in all constituencies,” the NLD’s U Nyan Win said, adding that the party will soon form the campaign team and that the party’s selection criteria for the candidates will be announced only after that.

Union Election Commission (UEC) has announced on October 19 that the names of the candidates will need to be submitted from Nov. 26 until Dec.7 and the nomination of the candidates from political parties will be scrutinized by the commission from Dec. 12 to Dec. 18.

The candidate list will be announced on Jan. 2.

U Khin Yi, the spokesperson of the country’s main opposition party and the former ruling party—the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP)—said that the party expects to compete in all seats.

He said that they are currently selecting the candidates for nomination.

The former minister of immigration and population said that the party will choose those who meet the candidates’ qualifications according to those laid out in the 2008 Constitution and election law, and also the party’s policy.

“We will mainly choose those who will get support from the public in the election,” he said.

He said that during the meeting with the UEC and the political parties on Monday, the USDP submitted seven recommendations for some changes in polling procedure. These included suggestions to mark ballots by pencil rather than by using stamps, requiring voters to show national registration cards in polling stations and displaying names on the updated voter list in family groupings, rather than alphabetically, but the party has not yet receive reply from the commission.

In the 2015 election, the NLD won 886 out of 1,150 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.

The results of the 2017 by-elections will be announced on April 5.