The 2015 election is up and running. Political parties immediately took to the streets to mark the first day of what is sure to be a tense and competitive two-month campaign period ahead of nationwide polls on 8 November.
The two main contenders, ruling Union Solidarity and Development (USDP) and Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), kicked off their election campaign in Mandalay with rallies.
Incumbent chief minister of Mandalay and USDP regional chairman Ye Myint, who is hoping to hold on to his seat in Pyin Oo Lwin, called on the public to consider carefully who to vote for, by taking account of not only the party but also its candidate’s capability.
“As the public now are much more politically aware than in the past, they should be able to weigh up what best can be done to make their region a better place,” he said. “They should therefore elect both a candidate and a party that can make this happen.
“Our party [USDP] is made up of such capable individuals. Voters should look at both the candidate’s and the party’s qualifications.”
The NLD also hit the campaign trail running on Tuesday morning in Mandalay, hosting a colourful parade in the city, which included a float decorated with a golden peacock and white star.
Tin Htut Oo, the party’s regional chairman, said, “The support from voters in Mandalay is as encouraging as usual. We are campaigning with music and art performances, including the slogan: ‘Now is time for change. Let’s vote for the NLD for real change!’”
The National Union Party (NUP), made up of remnants of former dictator Gen. Ne Win’s Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP), is eyeing more than 750 parliamentary seats across the country. On Tuesday, it launched its campaign in Rangoon.
“We marked the beginning of our campaign by unveiling a billboard in Lanmadaw and Latha townships featuring our candidates and local community leaders. Our main objective is to keep the democratic transition alive and continuous,” said Han Shwe, spokesperson for the NUP.
However, the Mon National Party said it was unable to start campaigning on Tuesday due to strict regulations by the local commission.
“The Moulmein district commission is yet to announce procedures on how we can campaign and in which areas, so we have difficulties that we are trying to negotiate,” said the party’s foreign relations chief Min Soe Linn. “First, we will have to seek permission from the local election commission to campaign in each area – and, as there are five parties operating in Ye Townships, all their schedules have to be coordinated.
“We must also seek approval from the municipality in order to erect posters and billboards, and we were late with that.”
The ethnic party alliance Nationalities Brotherhood Federation (NBF) said it is planning grassroots campaigns in several Rangoon townships, including Mingalar Taungnyunt, Insein and Yankin. NBF Chairman Saw Than Myint said their campaign will focus on educating voters about federalism.
There are currently 6,189 candidates registered to run in the upcoming general election, including 323 independent candidates.
The Union Election Commission told DVB that 88 candidate submissions were rejected for not meeting qualifications, although some were later approved following appeals. More than 50 appeals are currently pending, it said.
State-run radio and television, as well as the Parliament TV channel and Shwe FM radio, are to begin airing political party broadcasts every evening as from Tuesday, with the Mro National Development Party, the NUP and the Lahu National Development Party awarded the first evening’s air time.
Read more of DVB’s 2015 election coverage