Mandalay is not an unusual place for recently elected National League for Democracy member U Ohn Kyaing: in the 1990 election, he also won a seat in the city.
While he had been confident of victory on April 1, he expected tough competition from his Union Solidarity and Development Party opponent but, somewhat unexpectedly, he won 78 out of 79 voter stations and got 89.54 percent of the 87,598 eligible votes.
“It’s more successful than I expected. In 1990, our competitor was just a normal party. But this time was more difficult as we had to compete with the incumbent party. People promised to give us votes and we won with a great percentage as they kept their promise,” said 68-year-old U Ohn Kyaing, who is also a spokesperson for the NLD.
A former editor and journalist with a diploma from the United States-based World Press Institute, he told The Myanmar Times on April 2 that there were two reasons for his second victory in Maha Aung Myay, where eight candidates competed for the vacant Pyithu Hluttaw seat.
“People … keep quiet if they are not courageous. This time, they have courage to reveal their wish and desire,” he said. “Another reason is Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. People couldn’t see her leadership in 2010 election as she was under house arrest. But they could see it during her campaign events. People rely on and have high hopes for her and this is a factor in our success.”
He said he had developed as a politician since 1990, when he was relatively inexperienced.
“Now I’m experienced and the people’s support from 1990 is still influential. I was also in prison for doing politics and I’m thick-skinned so I talk without fear as I become more mature. I think people enjoy my brave talks.”
But rather than make public speeches, U Ohn Kyaing said he spent a lot of time in close contact with constituents during the campaign period.
“I went to their homes and they treated me very nicely. I’m deeply pleased with their warm welcome and real support. I feel like I have to do more for Mandalay as they have chosen me a second time.”
The approach seemed to have worked, with the Mandalay Region Election Sub-commission announcing on April 2 that U Ohn Kyaing got 78,436 votes, far ahead of the USDP candidate on 6785, or 7.74pc of the vote.
“It’s a competition so we have to face the fact the we can both win and lose,” said USDP candidate U Than Tun. “We’ll compete again. I’ll keep working for the party and prepare well for 2015.”
U Ohn Kyaing acknowledged the efforts and support of young people in Maha Aung Myay and said the party could not let the people down.
“Some young people said, ‘We’ve done our duty. Now it’s your turn.’ They mean that we have a duty to follow our [policy] manifesto. So with the victory comes lots of responsibilities,” he said.
Despite the win, U Ohn Kyaing said preparations for holding the by-elections were weak and many improvements needed to be made. “The commission should try to get exact voter lists in advance by taking more time and also to make sure to get full facilities in voting stations by preparing well in advance.”
Turnout in Maha Aung Myay was 70.3pc, with 91,892 of 130,567 eligible voters casting a vote and 4294 rejected.