Naypyitaw, 2 April 2017 – Low voter turnout was the main reason the National League for Democracy (NLD) failed to win seats in ethnic areas, according to Win Thein, a senior party member.
“The main reason we lost in these constituencies is low voter turnout,” said the NLD Central Executive Committee secretariat member. “Even in Yangon, the voter turnout was only 30%. At the 2015 general elections, the figure was over 60%, and in some constituencies 70%.”
Despite Win Thein’s claims, other reports from Yangon indicated a high voter turnout.
The veteran NLD member’s comments to the media on Sunday came after several official results were declared by the Union Election Commission (UEC). Despite performing strongly in Yangon strongholds it would have expected to retain, the NLD was reported to be lagging in other constituencies.
Win Htein said that according to field reports from party observers, the NLD had lost in nine of the 18 constituencies it was contesting.
“In the 18 seats we contested, we have lost the Lower House seat for Chaungsone; the Lower House seat in Ann; and in Shan State, we have lost all three seats in Monghsu,all three seats in Kehsi, and the single seat in Kengtung,” he said.
By-elections were held on Saturday for a total of 19 vacant seats. The NLD did not compete in Phruso, Kayah State, because its candidate failed to submit his application papers in time.
UEC announced that Tae Ye from All Nationalities Democracy Party won the Phruso constituency (1) for Kayah State legislative assembly.
On Sunday morning at 9am, the UEC announced the biggest surprise of this year’s by-election – Aung Kyi Thein from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) had won the popular vote for the Lower House seat of Chaungsone in Mon State, a constituency that the NLD won comfortably in 2015.
Some may speculate that voters in the Mon State township may have switched allegiance due to a recent dispute when the NLD-led Lower House of Parliament in Naypyitaw approved a motion to rename a bridge in the area after Burma’s independence hero Gen. Aung San, who is the father of NLD de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Questioned on this issue by reporters, Win Htein said, “Some say the loss in this constituency is because of bridge issue, some say it’s not. Others say it’s down to the weakness of the ethnic Mon parties in the area. We have listened to all these comments, but have not yet reached a conclusion. We will comment only after we meet and discuss the results with all relevant persons.”
Regarding the NLD’s losses in Kehsi and Monghsu townships in Shan State, Win Htein commented: “The main reason [for the loss] was the language barrier. We cannot speak Shan language. In this constituency, only two out of ten voters can speak Burmese, so they didn’t understand our speeches during the election campaigns there.”
According to field reports, the vacant Lower House and State Assembly seats in Kehsi and Monghsu may all have been won by the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD).
Polls were postponed in Kehsi and Monghsu during the 2015 elections due to armed conflict in the area.
Addressing the news of the forecasts from Shan State yesterday, Win Thein said, “We expected this result.”
The NLD also lost in Ann constituency in Rakhine State, where the Lower House seat appears to have been won by Dr. Aye Maung of the Rakhine National Party (RNP).