MANDALAY — The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) believes it may lose the November by-elections in Rakhine and Shan states, said U Zaw Myint Maung, the chief minister of Mandalay Region and chair of the party’s Mandalay chapter.
“[Rakhine and Shan] are ethnic [minority] regions. Besides language barriers, there are other pressures. To be frank, we have no confidence [of victory],” he said on Monday after a meeting with civil society groups.
“In the beginning we also had some difficulties with Chin State, but things have improved a lot now. It has been the same with Karen State,” he added.
The Shan State Parliament is dominated by the NLD’s main opposition, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), while the Arakan National Party dominates in Rakhine State.
Across the country, a total of 13 legislative seats — four in the Lower House, one in the Upper House and eight in regional parliaments — will be up for grabs on Nov. 3.
The NLD is contesting all 13 seats, while the USDP is fielding candidates only in constituencies outside of ethnic minority regions.
In all, 69 candidates from over 20 political parties and some independents are contesting the by-elections.
The four vacant Lower House seats are in Chin State’s Kanpetlet Township, Shan State’s Laihka Township, Mandalay Region’s Myingyan Township and Yangon Region’s Tamwe Township. The vacant seat in the Upper House is in Kachin State’s Constituency 2.
The vacant regional parliament seats are in Chin State’s Matupi Township, Sagaing Region’s Tamu Township, Bago Region’s Oktwin Township, Rakhine State’s Rathedaung Township, Magwe Region’s Minbu Township, Yangon Region’s Seikkan Township, Mandalay Region’s Thabeikkyin Township, and the ethnic Shan constituency in Mandalay.
“At first, candidates were very concerned. But they have been encouraged because the party’s central executive committee has campaigned in those areas,” U Zaw Myint Maung said, noting that the NLD was using the language of the local communities to communicate with potential voters.
“This is to show that the NLD is made up of various ethnicities and that it can engage in ethnic affairs,” he said.
“Though the challenge is huge, the most important thing is the decision of the people. We have to accept the decision of the people,” he added.
On Oct. 19 State Counselor and NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi travelled to Myitkyina in Kachin State, where she visited a boarding school for students and camps for internally displaced people in the area. The party has denied claims from local parties that the trip was part of the NLD’s election campaign.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.