It's after 4pm and a large crowd has gathered to hear the results of the poll at the National League for Democracy’s township office in Mingalar Taung Nyunt. The atmosphere and size of the gathering contrasts sharply with the 2010 general election, and many comments that it feels like 1990 all over again.
The crowd on the recently concreted Myanma Gone Yi Road includes those who voted earlier in the day, along with a sizeable number from townships where no by-elections were held. They cheer as the results of each of the 20 wards – along with other constituencies across the country – are read out, one after the other, and tallied up on a large chalkboard leaning against a tree.
With only half a dozen of the ward results confirmed, it’s clear that the NLD’s candidate, Daw Phyu Phyu Thin, is on track for a landslide win, a result confirmed two days later in the state press.
The township’s 102,000 eligible voters had a strong field of five candidates to choose from but most turned out to support the NLD.
“They are really excited to vote for the NLD on by-election day – everybody looks happy,” a journalist from The Voice said.
Ma Aye Aye Mar, a housewife from Kantaw Lay East ward, said she was both nervous and excited to cast her vote.
“I didn’t want my vote to be rejected,” she said. “I voted for Daw Phyu Phyu Thin. I didn’t go to vote in the 2010 election because the NLD didn’t contest.”
Ma July, a 27-year-old bank employee, said she voted for the USDP in 2010 because her father was a civil servant but this time she backed the NLD candidate.
“I believed that Daw Phyu Phyu Thin can help develop our township,” she said.
However, erroneous voter lists were also an issue in Mingalar Taung Nyunt, with some missing out on the chance to vote.
Democratic Party (Myanmar) campaign manager U Hla Myint said his party had tallied up more than 133,000 voters but the commission did not accept the party’s additions on March 24.
NLD township chairman U Khin Soe said about 100 residents of Lutlat Yay ward were unable to vote.
“Most have lived there for long time but they are not on the list. We’ve collected this data and will send it to the head office but residents also need to check the voter lists before election day,” he said.
Daw Phyu Phyu Thin told The Myanmar Times following her win that she would implement the promises that she would be loyal to both the desires of her constituents and the party.
One of her opponents, U Thu Wai of the Democratic Party, said he would re-contest the seat, which he lost narrowly to U Aung Kyi in 2010, in the next general election.
“All candidates tried their best,” he said. “This is a very good sign for our democracy.”