By FRONTIER STAFF
The Union Election Commission has confirmed the National League for Democracy’s upset loss in the Pyithu Hluttaw seat of Chaungzon following Saturday’s by-elections.
The NLD government’s decision to name a bridge connecting the Mon State township to Mawlamyine after independence hero Bogyoke Aung San appears to have depressed the party’s vote in the seat, following street protests and recriminations in the state assembly earlier this month.
The constituency was won handily in the 2015 election by the NLD’s Daw Khin Htay Kwal, who vacated her seat last year to sit on the Constitutional Tribunal.
In a four-way contest with the NLD, Mon National Party and All Mon Region Democracy Party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party clinched the seat with 19,667 ballots, or 41% of the vote, on the back of a divided ethnic bloc.
The NLD’s candidate won just under 27% of the count, finishing just above the AMRDP (23%) and well clear of the MNP (4%), according to an election commission result announcement on Sunday morning.
In total, the NLD won nine seats on Saturday, including State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s former seat of Kawhmu and the Shan assembly seat of Nyaungshwe-1.
“I thank my voters deeply,” U Kyaw Swe Win, the NLD’s winning candidate for Kawhmu, told Frontier Sunday morning. “Like U Tin Oo, the patron of the NLD, said during our campaign period, I will try to be reliable on behalf of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as I work for her constituency.”
The Pyithu Hluttaw constituencies of Dagon Seikkan and Hlaing Tharyar, along with Sagaing Region capital Monywa, were easy holds for the party after their MPs vacated the seats to join the Union ministry last year. Later on Sunday, the UEC announced further victories in East Dagon, a seat formerly held by Aung San Suu Kyi confidant Dr Myo Aung, and the Amyotha seats of Yangon-6, Bago-4 and Chin-3.
USDP candidate U Khin Maung Aye, who was decisively beaten in Yangon-6 after the NLD’s Dr Maung Maung took more than 80% of the vote, told Frontier Sunday he had not lost as a result of his party’s weakness but because of the NLD’s hold over the public imagination.
NLD rout in Shan
U The’ Reh of the All Nationalities Democracy Party has won the small Kayah State assembly seat of Hpruso-1 with 3,351 votes, or just over 53 percent of all ballots cast. The seat was won handily by the NLD in 2015, but the party’s township office missed the election commission’s paperwork deadline earlier this year and were unable to field a candidate Saturday.
Elsewhere, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy’s confidence in their central Shan State campaign was vindicated on Sunday afternoon, after the party claimed the two Pyithu and four state assembly seats up for grabs in the Shan State constituencies of Kyethi and Mong Hsu.
Voting was cancelled in all six seats during the 2015 as a result of clashes between the military and the Shan State Progressive Party. A further five Pyithu and 10 state assembly seats, encompassing territory held by the United Wa State Party and the National Democratic Alliance Army (also known as the Mongla group) remain vacant.
The SNLD’s candidates won more than 55 percent in all six constituencies, grabbing 77 percent of the vote for Kyethi’s Pyithu seat. After months of fresh conflict in the region, and following claims before the poll that the SSPP’s armed wing would coerce local villages to vote for the the ethnic Shan party, the NLD only managed to secure more than 20% of the vote in Monghsu-1. In four of the six seats, NLD candidates won less than 8 percent of all valid votes, with less than 5 percent for the party in Kyethi-1 and 2.
“We are just waiting the election commission’s confirmation for our celebration,” SNLD spokesman Sai Leik told Frontier on Sunday morning, prior to the official vote confirmation.
Ahead of the Shan State losses on Sunday, NLD luminary U Win Htein attributed his party’s poor performance to the language barrier faced by its candidates in the seats. He also blamed the Chaungzon loss on low voter turnout, while denying the bridge controversy had scuttled the NLD’s chances in Mon State.
To the east, the UEC confirmed Sunday the USDP had snatched victory in the Shan State assembly seat of Kengtung-2 with just 34 percent of the vote. The former governing party swept all three Kengtung seats in 2015, having secured most seats in the state’s east on the back of a fractious ethnic vote.
Winning candidate U Sharmway Lashan beat out rivals from the NLD (21.90% of the vote), SNLD (16.47%), Lahu National Development Party (11.95%), Akha National Development Party (9.92%) and Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (5.70%).
Back from the wilderness
In Rakhine State, Arakan National Party chairman Dr Aye Maung has succeeded in his political comeback.
Advance votes broke overwhelmingly for the Union Solidarity and Development Party candidate in Ann. The USDP’s U Thaung Nyein received 1,008 early ballots, compared to 28 for Aye Maung and three for the the NLD candidate.
Home to the Western Regional Command, similar advance results helped propel incumbent Labour, Immigration and Population Minister and former USDP member U Thein Swe to victory in the seat during the 2015 general election.
The bloc vote was not enough to stop Aye Maung from returning to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, after the ANP chief left his Amyotha seat in 2015 in a bid to clinch the Rakhine State chief ministry that was thwarted by an unexpected loss in Manaung.
Aye Maung picked up just under half of the vote Saturday, followed by the USDP (26.06%), NLD (20.51%) and independent candidate U Zaw Lin Aung (4.24%)
Despite turnout as low as 15 percent in some Yangon polling stations, and an evident lack of enthusiasm and awareness of by-election races in the lead-up to the poll, the NLD has won nearly all of the 11 seats polled that it had won during its resounding victory in the 2015 elections.
Party seat totals
National League for Democracy: 9
Shan Nationalities League for Democracy: 6
Union Solidarity and Development Party: 2
All Nationals Democracy Party: 1
Arakan National Party: 1
Ann — Dr Aye Maung, ANP (21,794 votes, 49.19% of all valid votes cast)
Chaungzon — U Aung Kyi Then, USDP (19,667 votes, 41.70%)
Dagon Seikkan — U Mya Sein, NLD (15,756 votes, 62.35%)
East Dagon — U Nay Kyaw, NLD (27,357 votes, 67.85%)
Hlaing Tharyar — U Win Min, NLD (31,369 votes, 69.73%)
Kawhmu — U Kyaw Swe Win aka U Ar Luu, NLD (38,028 votes, 69.97%)
Kyethi — Sai Aung Kyaw, SNLD (18,882 votes, 77.00%)
Monghsu — Sai Win Aye, SNLD (10,216 votes, 57.53%)
Monywa — U Nyunt Aung, NLD (95,923 votes, 81.69%)
Bago-4 — Daw San San Myint, NLD (71,042 votes, 57.31%)
Chin-3 — U Bwe Khein, NLD (9,242 votes, 44.70%)
Yangon-6 — Dr Maung Maung, NLD (75,299 votes, 81.71%)
Hpruso — U The’ Reh, ANDP (3,351 votes, 53.30%)
Kengtung-2 — U Sharmway Lashan, USDP (7,026 votes, 34.06%)
Kyethi-1 — Sai San Mai, SNLD (11,542 votes, 86.10%)
Kyethi-2 — U Khin Maung Nyunt, SNLD (7,832 votes, 66.17%)
Nyaungshwe-1 — U Khin Maung Win, NLD (17,204 votes, 51.14%)
Monghsu-1 — Sai Lin Myat, SNLD (4,764 votes, 57.84%)
Monghsu-2 — Nang Kaung Kham, SNLD (5,753 votes, 66.86%)
Reporting by Su Myat Mon, Hein Ko Soe, Kyaw Phone Kyaw and Sean Gleeson in Yangon, Htun Khaing in Mong Hsu and Mratt Kyaw Thu in Ann.