Parties covet vacant seats in Kachin State

Parties covet vacant seats in Kachin State

With by-elections due across Burma by year’s end, several political parties have noted an interest in fielding candidates in the vacant constituencies of Kachin State, where previous elections were cancelled due to ongoing conflict.

Dr Tuja, a former Kachin Independence Organisation member who founded the Kachin State Democracy Party last year, said his party will field candidates in at least three, if not all four, constituencies where by-elections will be held in the state.

“We will compete for three, perhaps all four of the seats available in Kachin State,” he said. “In our opinion, the size of the party doesn’t matter. Several major parties lack public support, while many small parties are popular. The most important thing is to be on the side of the people.”

He said the campaign period of 30 days, passed under a new regulation by the Union Election Commission (UEC), is too short.

“We have learnt that the UEC has cut the campaign periods for elections from 60 days to 30 days, but that they will try this at the by-elections and may extend the period if it turns out to be too short. From our perspective, a 30-day campaign period is not enough.”

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According to official announcements, by-elections will be held in four constituencies in Kachin State: Waingmaw, Hpakant, Bhamo and Mogaung.

Khin Maung Swe, chairman of the National Democratic Force, said his party is looking to field candidates in all four constituencies.

“In the previous by-elections, we did not field candidates in Hpakant, Bhamo or Mogaung, but we plan to compete in each of these townships, plus in Waingmaw for the regional parliament,” he said.

Burma’s two largest parties, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy and the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, have also revealed plans to run in Kachin by-elections.

The ethnic alliances of the Nationalities Brotherhood Federation and its sister-party, the Federal Union Party, say they will also nominate candidates for each of the vacant seats in Kachin State.

The National Unity Party, formed mainly from the remnants of former dictator Ne Win’s Burma Socialist Programme Party, will reportedly compete in 18 constituencies throughout Burma in the by-elections – six for the lower house; six for the upper house; and six for regional parliaments – in Rangoon, Mandalay, Sagaing, Magwe and Irrawaddy divisions, Kachin and Arakan states, but will not field candidates in Karen State.

UEC Chairman Tin Aye said in March this year that by-elections will be held around the end of November or beginning of December.

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