An election sub-commission official in Sittwe holds up a vote for the Arakan National Party. (Kaung Mratt Naing | Frontier)
An election sub-commission official in Sittwe holds up a vote for the Arakan National Party. (Kaung Mratt Naing | Frontier)

Rakhine parties fall just short of majority in state hluttaw

The Arakan National Party and Arakan Front Party appear set to hold a combined nine seats in the 20-member state legislature.

By KAUNG HSET NAING

Rakhine parties look like they are on track to have the largest bloc of votes in the Rakhine State Hluttaw, despite voting in most of their core constituencies being cancelled on security grounds – but they will fall just short of a majority in the chamber. 

Although votes are still being tallied in five townships, early results suggest the Arakan National Party will win seven seats and the Arakan Front Party two more, for a combined nine seats in the 20-member chamber, which will include five military representatives.

The ANP has managed to snatch Taungup from the National League for Democracy and appears on track for a win in Munaung, which also went to the NLD in 2015. It is also expected to pick up Ramree and Sittwe, where the party won in 2015.

The NLD has retained its foothold in southern Rakhine, winning four Rakhine State Hluttaw seats in Gwa and Thandwe, and is expected to also win the Chin ethnic affairs minister post, for a total of just five seats. The Union Solidarity and Development Party is on track to have a single seat, Ann-1.

In Pyithu Hluttaw results, the ANP is expected to hold four seats, the NLD two, the AFP one and USDP one. The ANP will have at least two Amyotha Hluttaw seats and the NLD one, with two more yet to be called.

The results suggest that the Arakan National Party would almost certainly have had a large majority if voting had gone ahead in all parts of the state. In October, the Union Election Commission cancelled voting completely in nine of 17 townships and cancelled it partially in three others (Ann, Taungup and Kyaukphyu) due to security concerns.

In total, nine Pyithu Hluttaw, seven Amyotha Hluttaw and 20 state hluttaw seats were cancelled, most of which were held by the ANP.

The cancellations were the result of conflict between the Tatmadaw and Arakan Army that erupted in Rakhine in late 2018 and has left thousands dead and more than 200,000 displaced.

Despite concerns that there may be violence on election day, the vote went ahead peacefully. However, the AA continues to hold three NLD candidates from Taungup that it abducted in October.

Township election commissions have already confirmed results in Gwa and Thandwe, where the NLD won all seats, like in 2015, and Sittwe and Taungup, where the votes went to the ANP.

The race for seats in Taungup was tight, with the Arakan League for Democracy also attracting significant support. 

With one military polling station still to report, the ANP had an unassailable lead in the Pyithu Hluttaw race, with 5,056 votes to the NLD’s 4,178, and the ALD further back on 2,813.

In the state hluttaw constituency of Taungup-2, the  ANP was on 4,619, ahead of the NLD on 3,756 and ALD on 3,597. 

In the Amyotha Hluttaw constituency of Rakhine-12, which encompasses Taungup, the ANP was on 5,002 votes, ahead of the NLD on 4,312 and ALD on 3,164.

ANP officials said it was a significant victory given the NLD had won the township comfortably in 2015 and the vote only went ahead in urban areas, where the NLD was thought to have its strongest support.

“Although there’s still one polling station [to be counted], we can say we’ve definitely won in Taungup,” said Daw Hla Thet Soe, the ANP Pyithu Hluttaw candidate.

The Arakan Front Party founded by jailed Rakhine politician Dr Aye Maung is leading in Kyaukphyu, another township where partial cancellations meant most residents could not vote. 

U Kyaw Lwin, an independent candidate aligned with the AFP, said the party was leading in all constituencies in Kyaukphyu. 

“According to the results from our party’s polling station representatives, we’ve won, but the UEC has not officially announced the result yet,” said Kyaw Lwin, who is contesting the Amyotha Hluttaw seat of Rakhine-1, which also includes Munaung.

U Kyaw Zaw Oo, an Arakan Front Party candidate, confirmed on Facebook this morning that the party had lost in Sittwe to the ANP.

“Whether I win or not, I will continue to serve the Rakhine people as a loyal politician,” he wrote.

Votes are still being counted in Ann, but the Union Solidarity and Development Party seems to be leading there. This is thanks partly to votes from Tatmadaw soldiers and their family members in the township, which is home to the military’s Western Command.

“We’ve lost the Pyithu Hluttaw and Ann-1 state hluttaw seat,” said U Tun Tun Naing, the ANP candidate. “I’m 99.99 percent sure that the USDP will win.”

He earlier told Frontier that, similar to previous elections, Tatmadaw personnel had cast ballots overwhelmingly for the USDP, despite the fact that they were voting in civilian areas for the first time, because of a reform to election by-laws enacted earlier this year that required polling stations to be relocated out of military bases. 

The USDP won the Pyithu Hluttaw seat and the state seat of Ann-1 in 2015, though Aye Maung later took the former seat in a 2017 by-election while he was still chair of the ANP. The ANP won Ann-2 in the vote five years ago, but the race for this seat did not go ahead this time because voting was cancelled in the relevant village tracts.

Of course, a majority in the assembly doesn’t necessarily mean that much because the president appoints the chief minister. 

Luckily for the NLD it has already managed to win a handful of seats. Under the constitution, the chief minister must be a representative of the hluttaw – had the party failed to win a seat, it would have had to choose from either an elected candidate from another party or a military representative.

Among the winners for the NLD is incumbent chief minister U Nyi Pu, who won the seat of Gwa-2 and is expected to again be nominated chief minister.

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