2017 by-election turnout rate fails to reach 37 percent

A voting station in Shwepyitha Township, Yangon Region, in 2015. Photo: Jacob Goldberg
A voting station in Shwepyitha Township, Yangon Region, in 2015. Photo: Jacob Goldberg

The voter turnout rate for last Saturday’s by-election was the lowest in Myanmar’s recent history. According to Eleven, only 784,909 of the 2,130,208 eligible voters – or 36.85 percent – ended up voting on election day.

The voter turnout rate was 72 percent in Myanmar’s 1990 national election; 77.26 percent in the flawed 2010 national election; 68.29 percent in the 2012 by-election; and 69.72 percent in the 2015 national election.

Elections were held last weekend to fill 19 vacant seats – nine in the Lower House, three in the Upper House, and seven in state parliaments.

The National League for Democracy, which scored landslide victories in 1990, 2012, and 2015 (the party boycotted the 2010 election), won just nine of the 18 seats it contested this year.

The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy won six seats; the Union Solidarity and Development Party won two seats; and the Arakan National Party and the All Nationalities Democracy Party each won one seat.

NLD spokesperson Win Htein told Eleven: “The reason why the NLD won only nine seats is most voters did not cast their votes.”

In Hlaingthayar Township, which the NLD won last weekend, just 12.26 percent of eligible voters showed up to vote.

Kawhmu Township, whose Lower House seat was vacated by Aung San Suu Kyi when she was elevated to the position of State Counsellor, had a voter turnout rate of 59.28 percent – down from 77.6 percent in 2012 and 80.46 percent in 2015.

One election monitor told Eleven: “The people showed low interest in the by-elections. Voters cast their votes in the 2015 election in the hope that they would see big changes if they voted for the biggest opposition party. [Now], voters may think there will be no significant progresses even if they cast their votes.”

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