SNLD expecting big gains in Shan by-election races

By HTUN KHAING | FRONTIER

KYETHI, Shan State — Members of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy have said they are confident of winning a number of seats in townships across their home state in tomorrow’s by-elections.

Much attention will be focused on the townships of Kyethi and Mong Hsu, where voting was cancelled in 2015 due to clashes between the military and the Shan State Progressive Party.

Both towns will each be electing lawmakers for one Pyithu Hluttaw and two state assembly seats. Elsewhere in the state, Shan Hluttaw seats are up for grabs in Kengtung and Nyaungshwe townships.

In Kyethi — the headquarters of the SSPP and its armed wing, the Shan State Army-North — four parties are competing for all the available seats. The SNLD, Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, Union Solidarity and Development Party and the National League for Democracy will be contesting all three seats, while the Lahu Democratic Union will compete for Kyethi-2 in the Shan assembly.

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“It looks like we have no major rival in Kyethi,” said U Sai Leik, a spokesman for the SNLD, which was formed in the aftermath of the 1988 anti-government protests. In 2010, the SNDP was formed to compete in the general election that year, after some members broke away from the SNLD.

The SNLD have been the most active campaigners in the township and local analysts say it is “almost certain” the party will win there.

The NLD had previously called for the Kyethi by-election to be cancelled for security reasons, but the Union Election Commission ruled the vote should go ahead.

Sai Leik said there is “no problem” in the town, despite it being under control of the SSPP, which has been in active conflict with the Tatmadaw in recent years.

SSA-N commanders, who are regarded as having close links with the SNLD, have promised they will not interfere in Saturday’s vote.

Down the road in Mong Hsu, the race is expected to be much closer. The SNLD won the seat in the 1990 election, but the USDP won in 2010, due to a high number of advance votes.

The SNLD has said it is confident of victory in Mong Hsu, and has sent high-profile members to campaign, but the USDP has also expressed high hopes in its changes of winning there.

“All our candidates are local residents, and have been carrying out development activities in recent years. So we are in a good situation,” said U Sai Myat Kyaw, the USDP’s township secretary.

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