NLD faces uphill battle in Chaungzon after bridge name dispute

By NYAN HLAING LYNN | FRONTIER

NAY PYI TAW — The National League for Democracy remains hopeful of claiming a by-election victory in Mon State’s Chaungzon Township, despite recent protests in the area over the naming of a bridge.

The party recently used its majority in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, or Union parliament, to back a proposal naming a new bridge linking Chaungzon with the state capital Mawlamyine after independence hero Bogyoke Aung San.

Some residents have objected to the plan, saying it ignored the wishes of locals. On March 2 around 3,000 people took part in a protest against the proposal, while a further protest was planned for March 19.

But Daw Khin San Hlaing, the NLD Pyithu Hluttaw representative for Pale in Sagaing Region, said the party was still hopeful of claiming victory in Chaungzon, which encompasses Bilu Kyun (Ogre Island).

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She said the NLD was “fully aware” that Chaungzon residents might “misunderstand” its position on the name of the bridge.

“The decision on the name is politically important so it was unavoidable. Anyway, the NLD must win in Chaungzon,” she said on March 15, following a party meeting in Nay Pyi Taw to discus the by-elections.

“The meeting was held to discuss by-election campaigning,” she added.

Following the meeting, which was attended by the party’s central executive committee and lawmakers, senior official U Win Htein described the bridge-naming dispute as “like taking bitter medicine because it was unavoidable for the NLD”.

“I was informed before the proposal was made in the Hluttaw. The NLD has come through a rough journey,” he said.

Chaungzon has been vacant since Daw Khin Htay Kywe, the NLD member who won the seat in 2015, was appointed to the Constitutional Tribunal, which required her to resign from parliament.

She won Chaungzon with 44.25% of the vote. The party also held the seat in the 2012 by-elections.

Its candidate on April 1 is U Aye Win, a 50-year-old chemistry graduate who joined the party’s youth wing in 1989. He will contest the seat against candidates from the National Unity Party, Mon National Party, All Mon Regions Democracy Party and Union Solidarity and Development Party.

Aye Win told Frontier by phone that he had resolved to work harder to win the support of residents in the aftermath of the dispute.

He said he was stronger in the southern half of the township, where there were 28 village tracts that were mostly mixed communities of Mon and Bamar. The 18 village tracts in the north of the island are majority Mon.

“The candidates for the two ethnic Mon parties and the USDP are all northerners,” Aye Win said. “I will get the majority of votes in the south. If I can also get around one-third of votes in the north, I’m likely to win.”

Aye Win said that he would campaign harder in swing-villages and those the NLD expects to win, while avoiding those villages that he believes “cannot be persuaded” to vote NLD.

“NLD headquarters is giving organisational training and guide-lines and NLD lawmakers in Mon State are helping me, too. A music band named ‘Pan Ye Lan’ is going to join my campaign.”

UEC figure shows that there are more than 120,000 voters in the constituency. In 2015, the NLD had around 7,000 members in the township, according to party figures.

By Nyan Hlaing Lynn

By Nyan Hlaing Lynn

Nyan Hlaing Lynn is a former editor at People's Age Journal and Mizzima. He writes about politics, the military, ethnic conflict and social issues and is based in Nay Pyi Taw.
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