By-elec­tions re­sults a wake-up call for NLD

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - EI EI TOE LWIN eieitoel­win@mm­times.com

Much was to be de­sired about the per­for­mance of the rul­ing NLD on Satur­day’s by elec­tions and an­a­lysts and party stal­warts said this should serve as a wake-up call.

THE vot­ing went ahead peace­fully, which is a good re­flec­tion on the rul­ing Na­tional League for Democ­racy, but the re­sults should serve as a wakeup call for the coun­try’s first demo­crat­i­cally elected gov­ern­ment which came into power in 2016.

Out of the 13 seats con­tested on Satur­day’s by-elec­tions the NLD won only seven seats, far below its ex­pec­ta­tions of win­ning a re­sound­ing ma­jor­ity of the seats. It means the NLD won only 54 per­cent, while the rest went to the other par­ties.

For­tu­nately for the NLD there’s still a good one and a half years more be­fore the gen­eral elec­tions in 2020.

“The by-elec­tion re­sults are a les­son learn for us,” U Zaw Myint Maung, Man­dalay Chief Min­is­ter and also a se­nior NLD mem­ber, told jour­nal­ists af­ter un­of­fi­cial re­sults came out. “Now I be­lieve we can pre­pare for 2020,”

He said the re­sults showed the peo­ple’s sup­port of the NLD, which swept the Novem­ber 2015 elec­tions, was de­clin­ing. Eleven of the seats con­tested were pre­vi­ously held by the rul­ing party.

The of­fi­cial re­sults showed the NLD win­ning three Lower House (Pyithu Hlut­taw) seats in Yangon’s Tarmwe township, Man­dalay Re­gion’s My­ingyan township and Chin State’s Kan­pet­let township. It has also suc­ceeded in win­ning three re­gional par­lia­men­tary seats; one each in Bago, Man­dalay and Magwe re­gions. Like­wise, it also won the Man­dalay Re­gion’s Shan Eth­nic Af­fairs min­is­ter’s post.

The main op­po­si­tion party United Sol­i­dar­ity and De­vel­op­ment Party (USDP) suc­ceeded in win­ning the Sa­gaing’s Tamu and Yangon’s Seikkan re­gional par­lia­ment seats as well as the Up­per House (Amyotha Hlut­taw) seat in Myitkyina in Kachin State. All three seats were pre­vi­ously held by NLD stal­warts.

An­other seat the NLD lost was in Chin’s Matupi township, which was won by the can­di­date from the eth­nic party the Chin League for Democ­racy.

The only two seats not held by the NLD prior to the by-elec­tions are the Rakhine State’s Rathaedaung township and the Shan State’s Lechar township. The Shan Na­tion­al­i­ties League for Democ­racy (SNLD) se­cured the Pyithu Hlut­taw seat in Lechar, while in­de­pen­dent can­di­date U Tin Maung Win, the son of de­tained Rakhine MP U Aye Maung, won the Rathaedaung con­stituency in the re­gional par­lia­ment.

The ques­tions NLD stal­warts need to an­swer frankly is why it lost in the six con­stituen­cies.

An­a­lysts pointed to a low voter turnout and fail­ure of the rul­ing party to im­ple­ment its key prom­ises such as amend­ing the 2008 mil­i­tary-drafted con­sti­tu­tion and fail­ure to achieve in­ter­nal peace and the rule of law.

In the case of the con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments, the NLD has been talk­ing about it since it con­tested the 2012 elec­tions and has so far failed to make good its prom­ise.

There is also con­cern over the turnout of vot­ers.

Over 900,000 cit­i­zens were el­i­gi­ble to vote in the by-elec­tion. The Union Elec­tion Com­mis­sion has not re­leased of­fi­cial in­for­ma­tion about voter turnout but pro­vi­sional fig­ures re­ceived from township elec­tion com­mis­sions show that only five con­stituen­cies had voter turnouts of over 50pc, the re­main­ing eight con­stituen­cies regis­tered an es­ti­mated turnout of be­tween 30pc and 40pc.

“NLD sup­port­ers didn’t vote as they as­sumed the by-elec­tion would not bring much change in par­lia­ment and ex­ec­u­tive branch,” U Myat Thu, chair­man of Yangon School of Po­lit­i­cal Science said of the low voter turnout.

He ex­pressed hope the peo­ple will fully par­tic­i­pate in the 2020 gen­eral elec­tions as they have to choose their gov­ern­ment.

“But the NLD has to be more con­cerned with the eth­nic-con­trolled ar­eas,” U Myat Thu said.

U Maung Maung Soe , a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst, said the NLD is los­ing the peo­ple’s sup­port. He noted that in the 2015 elec­tion, the rul­ing party won 8720 votes in Tamu in Sa­gaing Re­gion while the USDP only man­aged 8468 votes, but on Satur­day’s by-elec­tions the USDP won in Tamu with 10,567 to NLD’s 6602 votes.

In the case of Seikkan Township in Yangon, the NLD won with 514 votes while the USDP only got 404 votes. In the last elec­tion the sit­u­a­tion was re­versed with the USDP win­ning with 514 votes while the NLD only got 356 votes.

The fig­ures show the USDP main­tained its votes in the township while the NLD lost their sup­port­ers, per­haps due to lack of in­ter­est in the polls.

“As they thought the elec­tion re­sult may not have any ef­fects in the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, the NLD sup­port­ers might have de­cided not to vote. But it could also mean that the NLD is los­ing sup­port,” said U Maung Maung Soe.

U Maung Maung Soe also pointed out that the mil­i­tary also plays a key role in the process as their fam­i­lies still have a chance to vote in the elec­tions.

“Not only do they have 25 per­cent rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the par­lia­ment, they still have to vote also. Their votes al­ways go to USDP, the mil­i­tary backed po­lit­i­cal party,” U Maung Maung Soe added.

Ev­i­dence showed that in con­stituen­cies where there are mil­i­tary bases – in Minbu and Myitkyina – the fam­i­lies of per­son­nel in the bases cast their votes for the USDP. Although the NLD won in Minbu, the party did not get any votes in polling sta­tions where the vot­ers are mem­bers of the mil­i­tary and their fam­i­lies.

“The NLD and par­lia­ment need to re­view the is­sue (of mil­i­tary par­tic­i­pa­tion in the elec­tions),” U Maung Maung Soe said.

But U Maung Maung Soe noted that more than low voter turnout, an­other rea­son for the dis­mal show­ing of the NLD could be a loss of trust among vot­ers.

He noted that in Rakhine and Shan states, which are be­ing oc­cu­pied by strong ethic po­lit­i­cal par­ties, the NLD did not win ma­jorites even in the pre­vi­ous elec­tion.

Also, in other eth­nic ar­eas like Chin, Kachin , Mon, Kayah and Kayin , eth­nic par­ties have been pre­par­ing for 2020 elec­tion by merg­ing into one sin­gle party, which could give the rul­ing party a strong fight.

“We need to wait and see how the NLD re­sponds to eth­nic par­ties for the 2020 elec­tion. They should make a strate­gic al­liance with eth­nic par­ties,” U Maung Maung Soe said.

Be­fore the 2015 gen­eral elec­tion, eth­nic par­ties hoped for al­liances with the NLD through ne­go­ti­a­tion over shar­ing some seats in eth­nic ar­eas. How­ever, the NLD ne­glected the al­liances and con­tested in all seats.

Eth­nic par­ties re­alised that they could not ex­pect any­thing from NLD when NLD re­fused to give a chance to ap­point elected can­di­dates from eth­nic par­ties for min­is­te­rial posts for states and re­gions when the NLD formed the gov­ern­ment. All re­gional min­is­ters were ap­pointed by NLD.

The poor per­for­mance of the cab­i­net and the par­lia­ment is a key is­sue that kept peo­ple away from the re­cent elec­tions, po­lit­i­cal critic U Yan Myo Thein told The Myan­mar Times.

“NLD could not do any­thing to change 2008 Con­sti­tu­tion dur­ing the first 1000 days of its par­lia­men­tary term. Then they gave prom­ise to pro­mote job op­por­tu­ni­ties, how­ever, many peo­ple are go­ing abroad. Peo­ple are fac­ing more dif­fi­cul­ties in every sec­tor. Un­der these cir­cum­stances, peo­ple’s in­ter­est in vot­ing is de­clin­ing,” said U Yan Myo Thein. – Ad­di­tional Re­port­ing by Chan Thar

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