Aung San Suu Kyi’s government faced its first test at the ballot box on Saturday in by-elections around Myanmar seen as a barometer for growing disillusionment with her party’s first year in power.
The euphoria that surrounded the democracy icon’s landslide electoral win in 2015 has ebbed as her party struggles to push through promised reforms.
Discontent is particularly acute in ethnic minority areas where many see Suu Kyi as working too closely with the military, which ran the country for 50 years and still controls key levers of government.
But the voting may offer a glimpse of the public’s view on the NLD’s first year in office — a rocky 12 months marked by a surge in border unrest and disappointing economic gains.
Hundreds of voters lined up outside polling stations on the outskirts of Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon Saturday, though the scenes lacked the fanfare and enthusiasm of the historic 2015 election.
Chit Min, from Dagon Seikkan suburb, told AFP many of his friends decided not to vote this time around.
“But I am sure the NLD will win again,” he added. The party will face its toughest challenge to the north in Shan State, where tens of thousands have been displaced by recent fighting between the army and ethnic insurgents.
“There are many victims of war here and other ethnic areas now,” said Sai One Leng Kham, an upper house MP from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy.
“Sometimes (the NLD) works without any understanding of what’s going on on the ground.” Ethnic politics
In strife-torn Rakhine State on Myanmar’s western coastline, the party will face a strong challenge not only from the local Arakan National Party but also the military-backed USDP.
The USDP led the transitional government that took over from the junta in 2011, but was trounced in elections four years later that swept the NLD to power.
To the south in Mon, the NLD is facing a backlash over the naming of a new bridge after Suu Kyi’s father that many see as a symbol of the party’s disregard for minorities.—Agencies