Empty seats spark rumours of second vote

A second round of voting may be held in Burma to replace members of the winning Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) who have been appointed to cabinet positions and thus resigned their parliamentary seats.

Township-level wings of the Union Election Commission have been preparing for an additional vote, according to Khin Maung Swe, leader of the National Democratic Force (NDF) party. He said however that it was unclear how the process would would pan out.

“We assume some parties will have to compete in them,” he told DVB, adding that it was not an opportunity that should be missed. “I realize that we will have to compete to increase our numbers in the three parliaments.”

The USDP won 80 percent of the vote in last year’s elections and its representatives overwhelmingly dominate the three new parliaments in Burma.

But some 70 of its members have recently been appointed to cabinet positions and government ministries, meaning a significant number of parliamentary seats are potentially up for grabs.

Sai Saung Si, spokesperson for the Shan National Democratic Party (SNDP), which won 57 seats, said that the party had submitted a query on 8 February about the potential for interim elections and would likely hear back today.

Others however were more blasé about the possibility of competing again. “Only the USDP will win anyway,” said Nay Myo Wei, leader of the Peace and Diversity Party, which failed to win a seat in the 7 November vote.

“We are not interested because we will lose anyway. If the USDP makes way for others by not competing, then it will be different. But they have already formed the cabinet with people they handpicked. So the USDP should not compete again and instead give a chance to other parties and individuals.”

Top USDP minister and former lieutenant general, Tin Aye, on Tuesday resigned his parliamentary post and has been made head of Burma’s revamped Union Election Commission.

He becomes one of a number of high-ranking USDP members that have been appointed to government ministries and cabinet positions, including that of party head Thein Sein, who earlier this month became Burma’s new president.

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