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Suu Kyi's Party Retains Some Support in Myanmar, Loses Some

Officials of Union Election Commission count ballots at a polling station in Yangon, Myanmar, April 1, 2017.
Officials of Union Election Commission count ballots at a polling station in Yangon, Myanmar, April 1, 2017.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party has retained support in its Yangon strongholds, but loyalty has weakened in ethnic minority areas that helped boost the NLD's 2015 general election victory, according to by-election results announced Sunday.

The results from Saturday's by-elections released by the country's election commission showed the NLD taking eight of 12 seats for the combined upper houses of the national parliament. It won only one of seven seats at stake in state assembles, where ethnic-focused parties performed strongly.

The NLD won its 2015 election majority with the support of ethnic minorities anxious to end five decades of military rule, but Suu Kyi's failure so far to meet their political demands for greater autonomy has fractured their united front.

The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which led the previous government, won one lower house seat and one state assembly seat.

Suu Kyi has come under criticism for failing to boost the economy faster, as well as falling short on reconciliation with ethic minorities and other social issues. In a nationally televised speech last week marking one year since her party took power, she suggested she would step down if Myanmar's people felt she was failing to do her best, a suggestion that was less an offer than a solicitation for a mandate from voters.

The combined national and state assembly seat totals showed the NLD winning nine, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy six, the USDP 2, and the Arakan National Party and the All Nationalities Democracy Party one apiece. One of the NLD's victories was to fill the seat won in 2015 by Suu Kyi, who had to give it up when she joined the Cabinet as state counsellor, the country's de facto leader.

The Shan party represents the biggest of the ethnic minorities, and the by-elections it won were held to fill seats where polling could not be held in 2015 because of unrest.

In Rakhine state, the Arakan National Party's seat was won by its chairman, Aye Maung, who is an outspoken critic on behalf of his Rakhine ethnic group in its sometimes violent communal struggle with the Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority.

The All Nationalities Democracy Party captured its Kayah State assembly seat in a constituency that had been won by the NLD in 2015, but where the ruling party this year missed a deadline to put up a candidate.