More voter education needed in Shan State, says SNLD

An ethnic political party is calling for more voter education ahead of the swiftly approaching by-election. The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) said that with the poll date less than four weeks away, many voters still lack understanding about how the ballot casting system works.

“Some locals are already 50-years-old, but they do not have experience casting ballots. They do not know about voting. It is the responsibility of the political parties to meet with the public and explain to them about the process of voting and about politics,” Sai Leik, the SNLD spokesperson, said from Kyethi Township where the party is currently campaigning. “Only if the people know how this [voting] process works can they express their true wish during the election.”

He added that in every one of the 19 constituencies contesting the by-election, potential voters should be reminded that citizens over 18-years-old are eligible to cast a ballot.

The SNLD is one of the two major Shan political parties, and the only one to have successfully netted seats in the 2015 general election. The party is contesting seven out of the eight open races in Shan State in the April 1 by-election and is aiming to beat out its local rival the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), as well as the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

The first part of the SNLD’s campaign began in mid-February and is expected to cover Kyethi, Mong Hsu and Kengtung townships by March 16, when the next phase of campaigning will start.

Due to intensive fighting between the Tatmadaw and the Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) in 2015, Mong Hsu and Kyethi townships where among the five Shan State townships where voting was cancelled for the general election.  

The SNLD, established in 1988 and won a landslide in Shan State in the 1990 election, did not compete in the widely discredited 2010 poll. After fifteen years outside the political arena, the party came back in force for 2015, gaining 40 seats, including 12 in Pyithu Hluttaw, 3 in Amyotha Hluttaw, and 25 in the Shan State legislature. It was the second most successful party in Shan State.

Translated by Aong Jaeneh
Edited by Laignee Barron for BNI