The 60-day campaign period for Burma’s 1 April by-election is now underway, and nowhere more so than in Rangoon’s Kawhmu Township, where the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party has launched a strong drive to garner support for its new candidate for the vacant Lower House of Parliament seat.
The Kawhmu constituency seat was vacated by the NLD’s Aung San Suu Kyi after the general election in November 2015, when she was elevated to the state counsellor position in early April of last year, effectively overseeing the newly installed government.
The NLD’s candidate to succeed Suu Kyi is Kyaw Win Swe, an English tutor and son of well-known writer Myaungmya Ba Swe, who was the party’s election-winning candidate in Kawhmu in the 1990 general election.
Aye Thein, the local NLD chairperson in the township, said the party launched its campaign to hold the constituency on 31 January with a series of events in local villages in Kawhmu, which is located about 25 kilometres southwest of Rangoon city centre.
“We are campaigning in six villages a day, and aim to wrap it up in the major village-tracts by 15 February,” said Aye Thein. “After that, we plan to make three trips to remote villages to campaign.”
There are currently 11 candidates – nine party representatives and two independents – registered to compete for the Kawhmu seat in the by-elections.
Among those seeking to topple the NLD in Kawhmu will be candidates for the former ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, or USDP; the ethnic Karen-affiliated Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party; the National Development Party, headed by Nay Zin Latt, a former political adviser to former President Thein Sein; and the Democratic Party-Myanmar.
The NLD is fielding candidates for all five vacant seats in Rangoon Division – four in the Lower House and one in the Upper House.
The party’s Rangoon Division chairperson Myint Htay said the by-election campaigns will be led by the candidates in their respective constituencies, but the NLD’s patron Tin Oo will also take to the campaign trail if necessary.
“U Tin Oo will be joining the campaigns whenever necessary, but generally the candidates are to campaign by themselves along with local party executives,” said Myint Htay.
A total of 19 seats will be up for grabs across the country in April’s by-election and more than 90 candidates are registered to appear on the ballots. Most of those seats were vacated by their respective MPs when each was appointed to the cabinet following the 2015 general election. Other seats were left vacant when polling was suspended in those areas due to civil strife.
The 1 April vote will mark the first occasion that Burmese go to the polls since the NLD swept to a landmark victory in the November 2015 election, when it won between 75 and 80 percent of all elected seats in the Upper House and Lower House. The party also performed well at the state and divisional level, securing a majority in 12 of 14 regional legislatures.