As votes are tallied after Burma’s November 8 general election in eastern Shan State, it is confirmed that the region’s three Shan parties lost all parliamentary seats to the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and its main national opposition, the National League for Democracy (NLD).
The Shan parties that contested the election included the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), and the newly formed Eastern Shan State Development Democratic Party (ESSDDP).
With votes split between the three groups, none were able to secure a majority of votes in the eastern region, which could have allowed one of the parties to surpass the NLD or USDP.
Sai Tong Jing, a candidate from SNDP who competed for an Upper House (Amyotha Hluttaw) seat in Kengtung Township, told SHAN that the reason for the loss was division along party lines.
“Firstly, the SNLD didn’t cooperate with us but criticized our party,” he said. “Secondly, Shan people in eastern Shan State lack experience in politics; therefore, it creates problems when we are divided into many groups.”
The SNDP, also known as the “White Tiger Party,” contested 207 seats in 68 townships in Shan State, Kachin State and Kayah State as well as Mandalay and Sagaing Divisions, however, it won only one State Assembly seat in Mong Pan Township.
The six-year-old SNDP once won a combined 57 seats in Burma’s 2010 election and the by-election of 2012.
Both representatives of SNDP and SNLD questioned whether November’s election in eastern Shan State could be classified as “free and fair.”
“It’s not a free and fair election because many people who have tokens—the registration tickets—were not allowed to cast their votes,” said Sai Tun Aung, the Vice Chairman of the SNLD in Kengtung Township. His party competed for a total of 156 seats in Shan State.
Sai Tong Jing, of the SNDP, said that the election process was controlled by government authorities, and described the polling as unfair.
“People didn’t know whether their names were on the voting list until the day before the election,” he said. “Therefore, it was impossible for us to send out information to people.”
But Sai Hong Kham, the ESSDDP chairman who also competed for a Lower House (Pyithu Hluttaw) seat in Kengtung Township, attributed his party’s loss to a lack of voter awareness.
“Our party is new, therefore not many people know about it,” he said.
He added that they will not dismantle the party, but will keep “working for the people.”
The total number of seats in Shan State is 177. Of these, 55 are in the Lower House (Pyithu Hluttaw), but 15 are in ethnic self-administered region/zones, including those for the Wa, Pa-O, Ta’ang, Danu and Kokang. Twelve include seats for the Upper House (Amyotha Hluttaw), and five seats reserved for five self-administered areas. There are 110 seats for the State Legislature. Of these, eight seats are designated for four townships under Wa control and seven seats for minorities.
By SAI AW / Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N)