Voting begins in Burma’s parliamentary election

Myanmar elections 2017
Returning officers count the ballots of parliamentary by-elections at a polling station of East Dagon township in Yangon, Myanmar on 1 April 2017. Anadolu Agency / Aung Naing Soe

Voting has begun in Burma’s elections, with the ruling party of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi heavily favoured to be returned to power.

More than 90 parties are competing for seats in the lower and upper houses of the national Parliament.

There are more than 37 million people eligible to vote, including 5 million first-time voters. Fear of the coronavirus and safety measures put in place to contain it may reduce voter turnout.

Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won the last elections in 2015 in a landslide, ending more than five decades of military-directed rule in the country.

Her NLD party’s main challenger, as it was five years ago, is the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which has led the opposition in Parliament.

The ability of Ms Suu Kyi’s administration to run the country has been hamstrung by a clause in the 2008 army-drafted constitution giving the military 25% of the seats in Parliament, allowing it to block constitutional reforms.

Ms Suu Kyi remains Burma’s most popular politician but her government has fallen short of expectations, with economic growth doing little to alleviate widespread poverty and a failure to ease tensions among the country’s fractious ethnic groups.

The state election commission said it will begin to announce election results on Monday morning but it may take up to a week to collect all of the results, some of which will come from remote jungle areas.

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