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By slimmer margin than 2015 triumph, NLD emerges on top in by-election

A man casts his vote at a by-election polling station in Dagon Seikkan Township, Rangoon, on 1 April 2017. (Photo: AFP)

The National League for Democracy (NLD) has won half of the seats it contested in Saturday’s by-election, but lost a contentious battle in Mon State and saw nine other seats go to competing political parties in a poll widely viewed as of symbolic significance one year into the ruling party’s term of office.

Nine of the 19 seats up for a vote on Saturday were won by the NLD, but the party suffered a notable defeat in Mon State’s Chaungzone Township, where controversy over a ruling party MP’s proposal earlier this year, to name a new bridge there after party leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, is likely to figure into post-election analyses.

In Burma’s 2015 general election, Khin Htay Kywe of the NLD won the seat by a comfortable margin — 22,021 votes to her next closest competitor, Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) candidate Min Aung Thu, who tallied 14,437 votes. The military-backed USDP appears to have capitlised on the local controversy this year, however, and will send one of its own to Naypyidaw as a result. USDP winner Aung Kyi Thein garnered 19,667 votes on Saturday, besting NLD candidate Aye Win’s 12,636 supporters who turned out.

In Shan State, the NLD also failed to impress in six seats that did not get a vote in 2015 due to security concerns. The four state legislature seats, as well as two Lower House seats in the Union Parliament, all went to candidates representing the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy.

Saturday’s results could be viewed as a political rebirth for Arakan National Party chairman Aye Maung as well; he won a hotly contested race in the Lower House’s Ann Township after losing a 2015 bid for a different seat in the state legislature.

All told, the NLD took nine of the by-election’s 19 seats, with the SNLD’s six seats earning it runner-up status. The USDP won two seats, in Kentung No. 2 of the Shan State legislature and the Chaungzone upset. Aye Maung’s ANP and the little-know All Nationalities Democracy Party in Karenni State — the only seat not contested by the ruling party — claimed a seat apiece.