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Suu Kyi's NLD faces acid test in Myanmar

By-elections will show if the democracy icon's party has convinced voters it is improving their lives

Suu Kyi's NLD faces acid test in Myanmar

Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi attends a meeting with her Vietnamese counterpart in Hanoi on April 19. (Photo by Roslan Rahman/AFP)

John Zaw, Mandalay
Myanmar

May 14, 2018

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Myanmar's by-elections in November loom as a popularity test for Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) in far-flung ethnic areas.

Political analysts expect a sluggish economy, corruption and the failure to keep campaign promises about rule of law, peace and amending the constitution will figure prominently in the polls.

"In ethnic areas, the NLD is less likely to win over ethnic-based parties, especially in Shan, Rakhine and Kachin where they have strong public support," Yangon-based analyst Yan Myo Thein told ucanews.com.

"In Bamar-majority areas, it is mostly likely that the NLD will win seats as people have no other option to choose and there is no independent candidate with experience and ability."

Ethnic parties suffered ­­major losses in the November 2015 general election as the NLD won a resounding victory by defeating the military-linked Union Solidarity and Development Party.

In 2017 by-elections, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy won seven seats in the state parliament while the ruling NLD got only nine out of 19 seats in national and state parliaments.

Suu Kyi's government has been facing a great challenge over the handling of the Rohingya crisis in western Myanmar after more than 670,000 people fled into Bangladesh due to a crackdown by the military.

Yan Myo Thein believes the crisis will not directly affect the by-elections but it could have a big influence on the 2020 election as it is related to the NLD's performance and handling of the issue.

James Ngun Hra, an ethnic Chin from Hakah, the capital city of Chin State, said he is not fully satisfied with the NLD government's performance over the last two years.

"But we have no other option except the NLD as our ethnic-based parties are split up and still struggle to merge," Ngun Hra told ucanews.com.

Jennifer, a Catholic resident in Hlaingtharyar township on Yangon's outskirts, said the NLD government has faced a lot of challenges such as poverty, sporadic fighting and unemployment but two years is not enough for solving problems.

"I don't want the old military regime, so we will continue to vote for the NLD," she said.

The election commission announced on May 8 that by-elections for 13 vacant seats will be held on Nov. 3.

Four seats are in the Lower House, one in the Upper House and eight in regional/state parliaments in Kachin, Chin, Shan and Rakhine states.

Two-thirds of around 90 registered political parties represent minority groups from Myanmar's seven ethnic-based states.

Voter turnout for the 2017 by-elections was about 37 percent, down from 69 percent in the 2015 general election.

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