Despite election loss Chin party says ethnic parties still viable

  • Written by Salai Htan Swam Hlang
  • Published in Chin State

Salai Htan Swam Hlang — Many people in Chin State were caught off guard by the results of the 2015 General Election which saw local Chin parties do rather poorly. A total of 13 parties ran in the state however the National League for Democracy (NLD) secured an overwhelming victory and won enough seats in the state to form the Chin State government.

Many ethnic parties have started preparing for the 2020 Election. Party candidates have identified weaknesses with their recent campaigning including budget issues. A lack of voter education and voter awareness has also been cited as one of the reasons for the poor showing by ethnic parties.

The Chin State Election Commission’s officer U Kyaw Linn has said that difficulties with transportation and communication are also things that made campaigning difficult as candidates were unable to travel many parts of the state.

The current Chin State Chief Minister, the USDP's U Hong Ngai, has also said there was lack of voter education. The public’s lack of knowledge of the parties running in Mindat Township where he ran for the State Parliament was also something he identified as a concern. U Hong Ngai did not win his seat.

Election observers who watched voting take place in the state noted that many residents did not know whether they had to tick or stamp their ballot. Many voters also appeared unaware that they had spoiled their ballots.

Mindat District’s Election Sub-Commission’s deputy chief officer U Nai Ohn also said it was difficult for the sub-commission to give voter education in rural villages due to bad roads and communication issues. Trainings on the proper voting process were held for ward/village sub-commissions and polling stations officers. These officials were instructed to pass on this information to voters.

“There were still many people who didn’t know anything in Matupi Township. They love Daw Suu and told us that they would vote for her. However, they also said they would not vote for the NLD,” said a resident of Matupi who explained that the residents did not know Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was the leader of the NLD.

“The residents also said they didn’t want to vote for ‘Kyant Phoot’ (local acronym of the Union Solidarity and the Development Party in Burmese), because they have been abused by them, but they would vote for ‘Pyi Khine Phyo’ (official acronym of the USDP in Burmese). The residents thought the NLD’s logo is the bamboo hat instead of the fighting peacock,” he added.

According to local parties, there have been incidents of major parties giving money when canvassing for votes during the campaign period, such as an incident in Ton Zang town where the residents were invited to have coffee and snacks at the campaign rally, but they were given cash instead when many of them showed up. The Chin State Election Commission said no one has reported these incidents even though they breach the Election Law.

“We won around 75 percent of the votes” said U Zo Bwai, chairman of the NLD in the Chin State.

A total of 223 candidates from 13 parties and seven independent candidates ran in 39 seats in the Chin State. The NLD won 28 seats while the Zomi Congress for Democracy (ZCD) won six seats and the USDP won five seats. The remaining Chin parties and independent candidates did not win any seats.

“The public voted for the party they love. They probably didn’t vote for the ethnic party because they believe it cannot work for regional benefits. Ethnic parties need to try harder,” said a resident from Tiddim who is interested in politics.

Ethnic Chin parties said they will still stand by their original positions even though they have lost in the election.

The Chin National League for Democracy (CLD) said it wanted the public to vote for ethnic parties because only ethnic parties can work thoroughly for the development of ethnic areas, but it is more important to meet the desires of the public.

“In the recent election, I’ve heard the public questioning why those people won as they had only voted for Daw Suu. What I want to say is that the public don’t have any voting experience. They love Daw Suu but she’s not from the party they wanted to vote for. Whatever it is, the satisfaction of voters is the main thing,” said Salai Nge Pi, the CLD Secretary No. 1.