As campaigning begins, three local parties are preparing to face-off against the big guns of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) at this year’s general election in Karenni [Kayah] State.
The All-Nationals’ Democracy Party- Kayah State (AND) has launched its campaign for the upcoming general election. The Loikaw-based party is contesting 26 parliamentary seats in six of the seven townships in the eastern Burmese state, which is officially known as Kayah.
Poe Reh, chairman of the AND, said the party is primarily focused on campaigning in rural villages.
“As we cannot afford to organise larger campaign events, we are just travelling from village to village to meet with local voters. Most of the time we go in the evenings, as most people are busy working during the day. We are going from door to door,” he said.
He added that the party’s motivation for joining the election is to bring about a regional government that is elected by the people, and to bring about self-determination and ethnic equality.
“Our ultimate goal is to achieve a federal union … we have to have to work as hard as we can to implement our policy,” he said.
Also competing in Karenni, Burma’s smallest ethnic region, is the Kayan National Party (KNP), which is in fact based in Shan State. It began election efforts on 8 September and is vying for 13 parliamentary seats including Demoso and Loikaw in Karenni, Shan State’s Pekon; and Thandaung in Karen State, according to Nan Yi, the party general secretary.
“Our campaigners are taking trips to every single village and ward in the constituencies in which we are running. There are more than 100 villages in Demoso and we are visiting two each day – one in the afternoon and the other in the evening. We have a schedule to go to every village within the two-month campaign period,” he said.
He added that the party’s main goal is to bring about the ethnic rights promised in the Panglong Agreement, and that public interest has been low since the Union Election Commission released the latest voter lists on 14 September.
In his party’s televised address to the country last week, Nan Yi stated their commitment to the preservation of Karenni culture and traditions.
The Kayah Unity Democracy Party (KUDP) is fielding candidates in 26 parliamentary seats in all seven townships across the state. KUDP chairman Saw Daniel told DVB that the party was campaigning under the slogan: “Implement hope for social development through reforms”.
“In order to bring about a better society, there has to be reforms. By voting, people can hope to change the political environment under which they are suffering. In the same way, we can also implement the federal union system they have all been longing for,” said Saw Daniel. He added that his party has a chance of winning if the parties are free and far.
The KNP proved the greatest competition to the USDP in the 2010 election. Though the military-backed party swept the board in all regions, including Karenni State, the KNP won six seats, including the Lower House constituency of Thandaunggyi, where its candidate, Saw Nay Kaw Gyi, pipped the USDP’s man by 10,000 votes to 8,000.
Eleven parties are registered to compete in Karenni State, including the three local ethnic parties, the ruling USDP and Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD.
Read more DVB coverage of the 2010 general election