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UEC sets Nov. 3 date for by-election; 13 seats to be contested

A man gets ink on his finger after casting his ballot during Burma’s by-elections on 1 April 2017. (Photo: Reuters)

Burma’s Union Election Commission has set a Nov. 3 date for this year’s by-election, which will involve races for 13 seats across the Union Parliament and state and regional legislatures.

Four Lower House seats and one Upper House seat in the national legislature will be contested, as well as eight constituencies at the state and region level.

The total number of seats up for grabs has grown since a UEC official first indicated that a by-election would be held this year. At the time, in early January, commission member Aung Myint told DVB that seven vacancies would be put to a vote.

The country’s most recent by-election was held just last year, on April 1. Of the 19 seats put to a vote in that poll, 10 were won by the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD). The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy tallied six, and the Union Solidarity and Development Party, the Arakan National Party and All Nationalities Democracy Party took one seat each.

One interesting new addition to this year’s slate of candidates may be political aspirants from the Four Eights People’s Party, which is looking to finalise its bid for official recognition as a political party this month. The party’s leadership is drawn from the ranks of the so-called “88 Generation,” a cohort of activists who rose to prominence due to their role in the nationwide pro-democracy uprising of 1988.

Last month a leading member of the aspirant Four Eights People’s Party told DVB it was not clear whether the party would vie for seats in the 2018 by-election, citing lingering uncertainty over its registration bid.

If the party does field candidates, some have speculated that it could run competitively as an alternative to the ruling NLD, which was formed in 1988 and dominated the 2015 general election, but has suffered setbacks since taking power that may offer a political opening for the fledgling Four Eights People’s Party.