USDP dominating southern Burma

The junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is fielding candidates in all constituencies in Irrawaddy division and is the dominant force in Tenasserim division.

In five of the 12 constituencies for the Nationalities’ Parliament in southern Burma’s Irrawaddy division the USDP will face only one competitor, the National Unity Party (NUP). The situation is the same for 11 of the 26 seats available for the Peoples Parliament.

Here the third strongest contender is the Modern Peoples’ Party (MPP), which will field 14 candidates the 52 seats in the Regions and States Parliament. Its spokesperson, Yee Yee San, said that Irrawaddy division “is home to the largest number of our members”.

The MPP however will field only 30 candidates across the country for all three parliaments, while the USDP, backed by the ruling junta, has 1,112. While it stands the best chance of gaining seats in Irrawaddy constituencies, this region is where USDP has some of its strongest candidates, such as current agriculture minister, Htay Oo, who is the party’s general secretary.

The strongest opposition party, the National Democratic Force (NDF), also has a presence in Irrawaddy division, fielding two candidates for the Nationalities Parliament, nine for the People’s Parliament and two for the Regions and States Parliament. Eight parties in total are competing in Irrawaddy division.

The situation is similar in Tenasserim division, where only the USDP, NUP and NDF are competing. Hefty registration fees mean that many of smaller parties can only filed a handful of candidates.

Of the total 1,158 seats available across the three parliaments, 44 are in Tenasserim, Burma’s southernmost region: 12 for the Nationalities Parliament, 10 for the People’s Parliament, 20 for the Regions and States Parliament and two for the Ethnic National Parliament, plus the seven mandatory seats for the military.

The USDP faces no competition in two constituencies there, while in three others it will face off against the NUP, its main rival in the 7 November polls. There are around 90,000 eligible voters in the main towns of Tavoy and Yebyu, and around 80 ballot stations.

Toe Po, a People’s Parliament candidate for the NDF in Tavoy, said that most people in his constituency were routing for the NUP but were feeling pressure from the junta.

“[The junta] is manipulating people over the vote – the NUP will win if there is no manipulation in the voting,” he said.

Additional reporting by Nang Kham Kaew

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