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The Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP) has announced they will not contest seats in a northern Shan State township in the upcoming elections to avoid splitting the Shan vote in the region.
As a result, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) will be the only major ethnic party to run for election in Namhkam Township.
“If we compete in Namhkam, the public will have to split their votes between us and the SNLD, which would be disadvantage for us both,” township secretary of the SNDP Sai Tun Hlaing said.
“We must prioritise the national interest over our party’s interest. Just because we don’t contest the election in a constituency shouldn’t mean we’re foregoing the chance to lead. We are working hand in hand with the SNLD to represent social, religious and development interests in the region.”
Sai Tun Hlaing said that the SNLD had been informed of the plan and agreed to it.
The decision has been met with mixed responses from the community, with some locals pressuring the SNDP to reconsider their decision to withdraw from the constituency.
All 11 Namhkam-based youth organisations released a joint-statement expressing their support for the party’s move to avoid splitting the Shan vote and denounced “activities aimed to create dissension among the Shan people.”
DVB reported in 2013 that both parties were considering forming a coalition under one banner to contest the 2015 general election, and again in 2014 that the two had reached a preliminary merger agreement.
Other parties active in Namhkam include the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, the National League for Democracy, and the National Union Party.