By-election begins in Myanmar

It will be the first test of popularity for Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling NLD.

April 01, 2017 12:19 pm | Updated 12:42 pm IST - NAY PYI TAW:

A voter dips her finger in an ink bottle after casting ballot a polling station on the outskirts of Yangon on April 1, 2017. By-election in Myanmar that began on Saturday for 19 vacant parliament seats will be an index of Suu Kyi’s popularity.

A voter dips her finger in an ink bottle after casting ballot a polling station on the outskirts of Yangon on April 1, 2017. By-election in Myanmar that began on Saturday for 19 vacant parliament seats will be an index of Suu Kyi’s popularity.

A multi-party parliamentary by-election began across Myanmar on Saturday with two million eligible voters.

A total of 94 candidates, including 16 women, are competing for 19 vacant seats in 22 townships, Xinhua news agency reported.

It is the first by-election since the new government, led by the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), took office last year. It will be the first test of the popularity of Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD since it formed the government a year ago.

Of the 19 vacant seats, nine are with the House of Representatives (Lower House), three with the House of Nationalities (Upper House) and seven with the state parliaments.

Of the 94 candidates, 87 are from 24 political parties with 18 each shared by the NLD and the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), while seven are individuals.

Over a million to vote in Yangon

In Yangon region, over one million voters are expected to cast their votes in five townships constituencies, including two competitively strong ones — Kawhmu and Hlaingtharya.

The vacant seat of House of Representatives in Kawhmu, left by Aung San Suu Kyi after she became a government cabinet member, was contested among nine candidates, while Hlaingtharya’s similar seat was contested by eight candidates.

The 19 seats were left by parliament members after they were appointed as Government Cabinet Ministers, while other vacancies were available as some constituencies failed to hold polling in the last general election in 2015.

The voting comes at a time of renewed hostilities between some ethnic guerrilla forces and the Myanmar army, especially in Shan state, where a number of the byelections are taking place. Ethnic parties performed poorly in 2015, but they are hoping that anger at the government will see them make gains.

The polling began at 6 a.m. and will close at 4 p.m. The results will be announced on Saturday.

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