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Six takeaways from the Arakan State elections
With the last few winners of the November 8 general election announced over the weekend, a fuller picture of Myanmar’s political landscape for the next five years is available. Because security concerns prompted the cancellation of voting in the northern half of Arakan State, southern Arakan saw tight contests between local Arakanese political parties and parties from the Burmese-majority areas of mainland Myanmar.
14 Nov 2020
By Min Tun | DMG
With the last few winners of the November 8 general election announced over the weekend, a fuller picture of Myanmar’s political landscape for the next five years is available. Because security concerns prompted the cancellation of voting in the northern half of Arakan State, southern Arakan saw tight contests between local Arakanese political parties and parties from the Burmese-majority areas of mainland Myanmar. Here DMG breaks down some of the key takeaways from the balloting in Arakan State.
(1) More than 1 million people lost their voting rights
As elections could not be held in northern Arakan State, over 1.2 million voters living in the affected townships were disenfranchised. A total of 755 polling stations were set up to accommodate more than 400,000 eligible voters on Election Day, amounting to just a fraction of the Arakan State electorate.
The Union Election Commission (UEC) faced widespread criticism for its decision to cancel voting in nine townships — Buthidaung, Maungdaw, Rathedaung, Pauktaw, Ponnagyun, Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U, Minbya and Myebon — of northern Arakan State. Political parties argued that Pauktaw and Maungdaw townships are relatively stable and were not experiencing any ongoing clashes.
Moreover, elections were partially canceled in four other townships: four village-tracts in the state capital Sittwe, two wards and 49 village-tracts in Kyaukphyu, three wards and 25 village-tracts in Ann, and 10 wards and 52 village-tracts in Taungup.
Elections were held fully in just four out of 17 Arakan State townships, those being Manaung, Ramree, Gwa and Thandwe. To put it mildly, we got only a partial picture of the state of the state’s politics on November 8.
(2) Three local Arakanese political parties faced off
The Arakan National Party (ANP), the Arakan League for Democracy (ALD) and the Arakan Front Party (AFP) contested in the November election.
Among the three, it was the ANP alone that contested the 2015 general election. At the time, the party was the outcome of a 2013 merger between the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party and the ALD.
But following ANP infighting, a faction left the party and re-established the ALD in 2017. Dr. Aye Maung resigned as the chairman of the ANP in November of that year and established the AFP the following year.
Two of the three parties won seats this year, with the ANP emerging as the still-dominant force in Arakanese politics.
(3) The Arakan League for Democracy (ALD) went winless
U Hla Myint, a spokesman for the Arakan League for Democracy (ALD), said that though the party contested all constituencies in six townships of southern Arakan State, it did not win a single seat.
The ALD vied for four seats in the Upper House, six seats in the Lower House and 10 seats in the Arakan State legislature in Kyaukphyu, Manaung, Ramree, Ann, Taungup and Thandwe townships.
In the races that the ALD lost, the party was bested variously by the National League for Democracy (NLD), Arakan National Party (ANP), Arakan Front Party (AFP) and the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), in Myanmar’s unforgiving first-past-the-post system.
(4) No success for independent candidates
Not a single independent candidate won a seat in the November 8 general election in Arakan State, where altogether 18 had contested.
In the Arakan State Hluttaw, there were a total of 12 independents vying for seats in seven townships: three in Manaung, one in Ramree, two in Ann, one in Sittwe, one in Gwa, one in Taungup and three in Thandwe.
Two independent candidates from Manaung, and one each from Gwa and Thandwe townships, contested seats in the Pyithu Hluttaw. In the Amyotha Hluttaw, one candidate ran for Arakan State’s Constituency No. 1 and another sought the seat representing Constituency No. 11.
(5) Arakanese political parties claimed victories in once NLD-held constituencies
The Arakan National Party (ANP) won all the constituencies in Taungup and Manaung townships in the November 8 election. The National League for Democracy (NLD) was triumphant in the 2015 election in these so-called NLD strongholds.
The ANP won 4,633 votes in the Arakan State Parliament Constituency No. 2 for Taungup Township, 5,069 votes in the Lower House and 5,015 votes in the Upper House. The Union Election Commission (UEC) has announced that voting would not be held in the Arakan State Parliament’s Constituency No. 1 for Taungup Township.
The ANP also won by more than 100 votes in the Lower House and Upper House, as well as Arakan State Assembly’s Constituency Nos. 1 and 2, in Manaung Township, according to party officials.
In Gwa and Thandwe townships, where the NLD was also strong in previous elections, Arakanese political parties did not win and the NLD retained its seats. The NLD won all constituencies for the Lower House, Upper House and the Arakan State Hluttaw constituency Nos. 1 and 2 in Gwa Township, where the incumbent Arakan State Chief Minister U Nyi Pu was among the contestants for a seat. Similarly, the NLD won the seats in State Hluttaw Constituency Nos. 1 and 2 in Thandwe Township.
Arakanese political parties also did not win any seats in the previous elections in these townships.
(6) Two women won seats in the Arakan State Parliament
There were no female MPs among the Class of 2015 lawmakers elected to the state parliament (hluttaw) in Myanmar’s last general election. Two women will be sworn in next year as the second and third female members of the Arakan State Parliament in the chamber’s history.
Arakan National Party (ANP) candidates Daw Tin Yi and Daw Khin Myo Yin have claimed victories in their races for the No. 2 constituencies of Manaung and Taungup townships respectively.
In the 2020 general election, two women candidates each from the ANP and Arakan League for Democracy (ALD), one each from the Arakan Front Party (AFP), National League for Democracy (NLD), Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP), and Rakhine National Force Party, and two independent candidates — all told 10 female candidates — ran for seats in the Arakan State Parliament.