Daw Suu absence will hurt by-election campaign: Win Htein

By NYAN HLAING LYNN | FRONTIER

NAY PYI TAW — A senior National League for Democracy official has conceded the party may struggle to match previous election results when it contests by-elections in April due to the enforced absence of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from the campaign trail.

Under the constitution, members of the government are banned from participating in “party activities”. Aung San Suu Kyi holds the posts of state counselor, minister for foreign affairs and minister for the President’s Office.

Central executive committee member U Win Htein said other party officials would have to step up to fill the big void.

“When we campaign, we might be weak because Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is not allowed to canvass for votes,” he said. “But the rest of us have to try hard on the campaign trail.”

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Win Htein made the comment on the sidelines of a meeting on Tuesday in Nay Pyi Taw between the Union Election Commission and political parties to prepare for the by-elections, which will take place in 19 national and state/region constituencies on April 1.

The NLD won around 80 percent of all elected seats in the 2015 general election, mirroring its performance in the 1990 vote.

It will field 18 candidates in the April by-election, after it failed to nominate a member for the vacant Kayah State Hluttaw seat of Hpruso-1 before the deadline.

Its major rival, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, will field candidates in all 19 seats. Altogether 88 candidates from 24 political parties and seven independents have registered to comtest the vote.

Voting rule changes

Meanwhile, the Union Election Commission has announced a small change to voting rules that it says will result in fewer invalid votes.

Commission secretary U Tin Tun said ballots with more than one stamp would no longer automatically be declared void. According to UEC figures, 6 percent of votes cast in the 2015 general election were declared invalid.

“In previous elections, if the rubber stamp was used more than once the vote was rejected. But in coming elections, if it is clear that voter has chosen only one candidate, no matter how many times the stamps was made, it will be regarded as a valid vote,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

All other votes with more than one stamp will still be rejected, he said. “A voter cannot stamp for two candidates.”

The change was made based on the suggestion of political parties and from the commission’s experience in previous elections, Tin Tun said.

The changes will be introduced for the April 1 by-elections.

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