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Mon State by-election fails to interest voters

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By-election candidates say they are facing an uphill battle motivating voters in Mon State to come out to the April 1 polls.

According to both candidates and election watchdog groups, voters are indifferent to the Chaungzone Township contest.

“The local people are not much interested in the by-election. Only five out of every 100 people have gone to check their names on the voter-list,” said U Win Htut, candidate for the Chaungzone Pyithu Hluttaw seat and a member of the All Mon Regions Democracy Party (AMDP). “I also found that they were not interested when we campaigned.”

Youth activists in Mon State canvass for votes during the by-election campaign (Photo: MNA)
Youth activists in Mon State canvass for votes during the by-election campaign (Photo: MNA)

He added that during the 2015 general elections crowds hundreds-strong attended campaign events. For the by-election, his party has been lucky if more than 20 come.

Chaungzone Township’s seat is one of 19 up for grabs in the April 1 by-election, and the only one free in Mon State.

Five parties are vying the Pyithu Hluttaw spot, including U Aye Win from the National League for Democracy (NLD), Nai Sein Mya Maung from the Mon National Party (MNP), U Win Htut from the AMDP, U Aung Kyi Thein from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and U Tin Wai from the National Unity Party (NUP).

In 2015, the NLD’s Daw Khin Htay Kywe won the Chaungzone seat. It became vacant after she was appointed to the Constitutional Law Office.

According to U Hla Htun, a resident of Chaungzone’s Mudoon Village, most people are focused on supporting their families, rather than on a by-election that won’t do much to shake up the halls of power in Mon State.

“I have not checked the voter-list yet. I do not even know how to vote,” he said.

A by-election monitor agreed that a lack of voter education is contributing to the voters’ lack of enthusiasm.

“Compared to last election we have found that this time, the public is not much interested. When we ask the locals who will be competing in the by-election and who the candidates are, they do not know,” said Manori Kalugampitiya, from the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL).

However, polling data shows a poor local turnout for the 2015 ballot as well. According to the election sub-commission, Chaungzone Township had a total of 127,249 eligible voters in 2015, but on November 8 only 56,573 people, or 44%, cast ballots. The national voter turnout was over 69%.

For the by-election, 125,895 voters across 78 villages will be eligible to cast a ballot. The township will have 62 voting stations up and running on April 1, according to the local election office.

This news article was originally translated and edited by BNI: 

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