Friday, August 18, 2017

Parties struggle for Dagon Seikkan win

Candidates who contested the by-election in the outer Yangon suburb of Dagon Seikkan said they were satisfied with the electoral process but found campaigning difficult.

The seat was won by Dr Myo Aung of the National League for Democracy with 36,126 votes from 81,674 eligible voters across 14 quarters and four villages, according to figures provided by the election commission.

“The majority of those living in Dagon Seikkan are workers, farmers and pensioners. Many of them have to work all afternoon and come back only in the evening so this was the only time we could campaign,” said U Kyee Myint, the candidate from the National Democratic Force. “But at that time the electricity was often out and we didn’t dare go from house to house in the dark.”

“From the election campaign I came to realise that this area needs attention from local and international non-government organisations because it is quite under developed,” he said.

U Win Myint of the National Unity Party said his campaign had faltered because he “couldn’t attract young people” during the short campaign period.

“The National League for Democracy could unite the majority of young people … that is the biggest difficulty for other parties who competed against it,” he said.

Winner Dr Myo Aung said he had been impressed with the level of interest Dagon Seikkan residents had shown in the by-elections. “The political awareness of residents in Dagon Seikkan was much higher than we expected … more than 30,000 supporters attended when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi came to Dagon Seikkan,” he said.

However, journalists and NLD members said they encountered difficulties when trying to monitor vote counting at some polling stations in 88 quarter.

“When I arrived Basic Education High School 1, which was the polling station for Thawka 4 Street in 88 quarter, our group reported to watch the vote counting. The person in charge of the station didn’t allow us to get inside, saying that there were already five people who had registered to watch,” says Ko Myat Kyaw, a member of NLD’s campaign team in Dagon Seikkan. “He wouldn’t confirm who was in the station when we asked.”

He added that a woman in charge of polling station 5 in 88 quarter shouted at reporters and party members when they approached the station to watch vote counting.

“She said she wouldn’t count any more votes until we left. There were many residents anxiously waiting outside the station to know the result, so the residents become worried that they wouldn’t count anymore and asked us to leave as quickly as possible,” he added.

But Ma Nwe Nwe Win, who monitored the count at a polling station in 89 quarter, said the teachers in charge of station were “very organised”.

“They showed each ballot us to confirm [its validity]; they were very fair.”

Junichi Fukasawa, the Bangkok bureau chief of Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun, said he had found it “very easy” to get access to polling stations on April 1, in contrast to the 2010 election when he was denied a visa. He was one of several foreign journalists and election observers in Dagon Seikkan for the poll.

“The atmosphere today is very natural, like in Japan,” Mr Fukasawa said as he visited a poll station in 94 quarter. “The by-election is free and fair until this moment. People are enjoying the democracy. Two days ago in a press conference, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said there were [irregularities] but I think the situation is not that bad and not serious.”