The UEC announced on October 27 that voting had been cancelled for security reasons in Kye-thi and Mong Hsu townships, as well as sections of Tang Yan and Hopang townships.
The commission did not elaborate on the reasons for the decision, but Kye-thi and Mong Hsu have been the scene of fierce fighting between the Tatmadaw and the Shan State Army-North, the armed wing of the Shan State Progress Party, since early October.
But the SNLD said it strongly objected to the decision, which it described as “one-sided” and contrary to the “real desire of locals”.
The cancellation would prevent the formation of an elected civilian government and also make it harder to amend the constitution, as the two seats will go unfilled, giving the military a larger proportion of parliamentary votes.
“We believe that the statement is decided based on the proposal of a hopeless, non-opposition political party only, without making careful observation over the current situation in the area,” the party said.
The statement did not clarify which party the SNLD was referring to. However, the decision to cancel voting was taken after an SNLD rival, the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, reportedly requested the UEC postpone the vote in Kye-thi, Mong Hsu and Tang Yan. Candidates had suggested the vote could be postponed in some areas rather than cancelled.
But the decision had also been requested by the local district election sub-commission in Loileng. Commission official U Thein Naing said they had asked the state commission to postpone the election in Mong Hsu and Kye-thi townships because of the conflict.
“The polling officers are scared of the fighting and they don’t want to go there so we cannot hold elections in these two townships. We can’t do elections there. We are waiting for a decision from the Union Election Commission,” he said in an earlier interview.
But the SNLD insisted that the fighting was not severe enough to cancel voting in the entirety of the two townships. It also said the conflict had not affected Tang Yan or Hopang township.
“Skirmishes have occurred in only Mong Hsu and Kye-thi townships out of the four mentioned,” the SNLD said. “The decision brings into question how the UEC knows in advance that skirmishes will keep on occurring in the next 10 days before the election. We are deeply disappointed.”
SNLD representatives also suggested that the latest escalation of conflict may have been a political exercise deliberately aimed at calling off votes in the opposition party’s strongholds.
“On the afternoon of October 27, before the UEC announced that voting was called off, the government’s troops in the town fired heavy weapons where the SSPP/SSA are stationed. The result of the offensive was that the election won’t be held in many townships ... It did this purpose. Our party is strong in these regions,” said U Sai Tun Aye, an SNLD representative in Mong Hsu.
On October 13, the UEC announced that voting would not be held in five townships in Shan State on the border with China and beyond government control, meaning their parliamentary seats will be left vacant. In total voting was cancelled in nearly 600 village tracts, mostly in Kachin and Shan states.
Additional reporting by Shwegu Thitsar, translation by Thiri Min Htun