Aung San Suu Kyi's ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party won only nine of the 19 seats in national and regional parliaments contested in by-elections held in Myanmar on April 1 to fill vacancies left by incumbents whom the government picked for ministerial posts. The election saw the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) make impressive gains in Shan State, and the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) picked up a seat some 18 months after the military-backed party lost major national elections. Aung Theinka of RFA's Myanmar Service interviewed NLD Spokesman Nyan Win to get the party's view on Saturday's outcome.
RFA: The NLD contested 18 seats in 19 constituencies in the by-elections and won only nine seats. Are you satisfied with the result?
Nyan Win: Eight seats out of 19 were in Shan State. It is normal for ethnic people to vote for their ethnic parties. Even though they voted for their ethnic party (SNLD), the NLD won a seat in Shewnyaung. It is the result what we expected. We learned a lesson from this by-election. We noticed that we need more preparation for future elections.
RFA: People are saying that it is not good sign for the NLD that more ethnic people have supported/voted ethnic parties than the NLD. What do you say to that?
Nyan Win: We believe in democracy and elections are the most important thing for a democratic country. Political parties contest in elections and we understand it. We don’t think the NLD has been harmed because ethnic people voted for ethnic parties.
RFA: Did Aung San Suu Kyi issue any directives for the lost seats?
Nyan Win: There were no directives, but what she said is that the by-election result is not very different from what we had expected.
RFA: The USDP won in Chaungzon constituency, where NLD won in the 2015 election. What is your opinion on the fact that NLD lost in this constituency?
Nyan Win: Daw Khin Htay Kyawe was the candidate for this place in two previous elections. The candidate changed in this constituency for the 2017 by-election and NLD’s unity in Chaungzon was weak. That’s the undeniable reason for our loss.
RFA: Is that related with problems surrounding the naming of Choungzon Bridge?
Nyan Win: It might be related a little, but it is not the major reason. Although Chanugzon is in Mon State, most people who live in it are Burmese. As I told you before, ethnic people want to vote for their own ethnic party. The USDP won in it because the NLD candidate changed and the Burmese people in this place voted USDP as it is a Burmese party, I think. For example, Burmese political parties win in places like Yangon where the Burmese people are the majority. It is normal. It is the right of people in a democracy, but that kind of thinking is not good.
RFA: People are criticizing the current government’s pace of work. What do you think of this criticism?
Nyan Win: It is not weak, it is slow. There is a bureaucratic mechanism in government, but the NLD government and that mechanism are not compatible yet and that is normal. We are trying to get better in dealing with this this mechanism and we will be OK soon.
RFA: People say the NLD government can’t do what it wants because of the 2008 constitution.
Nyan Win: That’s exactly correct. The 2008 constitution was written to make the next government face difficulties. The current government is working on the economy and the economy is going to be getting better soon. We have to wait until the right time comes.
Translated by Khet Mar.