A second by-election since reformist President Thein Sein took power three years ago will be held in Burma later this year to fill at least 30 vacant seats in the Union and state-level parliaments.
Tin Aye, the chairman of the Union Election Commission (UEC), confirmed that the poll would be held in answer to a question from Phyo Min Thein, a lawmaker from the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party, during a parliamentary session on Thursday.
Fellow lawmaker Phay Than told The Irrawaddy that “Chairman U Tin Aye did not say when it would be held, but they will announce it three months before the by-election date.”
“He said it will be done when the weather is good,” added Phay Than, who also had asked about whether there were any plans to hold a by-election during a parliamentary session last year. At that time, the commission said it did not intend to hold by-elections before Burma’s 2015 general election.
Thaung Hlaing, the director of the Union Election Commission (UEC), told The Irrawaddy that this year’s by-election would likely come after the rainy season concludes, which is generally in September or October.
“We will announce beforehand, but right now we have the census [being conducted nationwide from March 30 to April 10] and then will come the rainy season, so we will hold it not until winter.”
The vacancies are for six seats in the national Parliament’s Upper House, 13 constituencies in the Lower House and 11 seats in state and divisional parliaments, according to the UEC official. The empty seats are in the constituencies of 11 states and divisions—Kachin, Karen, Mon, Arakan, Chin and Shan states, and Mandalay, Sagaing, Rangoon, Irrawaddy and Tenessarim divisions.
The seat vacancies are primarily the result of their former holders’ moves to ministerial posts or departmental positions within government. A handful of other constituencies’ representatives have died.
Thaung Hlaing said the commission had decided to hold the by-election at the request of parliamentarians. Lawmakers had raised the issue with the UEC, pointing out that the constituencies in question would remain without a representative voice in the various legislatures for more than a year if by-elections were not held.
Burma is slated to hold its next general election in 2015, presumably at some point in the second half of the year.
On April 1, 2012, Burma held its first by-election since a 2010 general election that led to the selection of Thein Sein as the country’s first nominally civilian head of state in 50 years.
The NLD contested the 2012 poll, the first time it had participated in elections since it won a landslide victory in 1990 that was ignored by the military regime of the time. The country’s main opposition party fared equally well in its 2012 campaign, taking 43 of 45 seats contested. The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won one seat, as did the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party.