Myanmar by-elections test government support – Nikkei Asian Review

YANGON — Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy government are gearing up for their first electoral test since taking power last year, with April 1 by-elections looming for a small number of parliamentary seats. “Many of the vacant seats are in the NLD’s stronghold areas,” noted Nay Yan Oo, a Myanmar analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. The seats being contested were vacated when their occupants were appointed to various roles in the NLD government. Regulations require that lawmakers who join the administration must give up their parliamentary seats. There are 18 seats at stake, with 95 candidates from 24 parties seeking the support of 2 million voters.

As NLD routs governing party, Suu Kyi seeks meeting with president, army – Nikkei Asian Review

YANGON — With the National League for Democracy looking likely to gain enough seats in Myanmar’s Nov. 8 poll to form a government early next year, party leader Aung San Suu Kyi has signaled her intent to meet soon with President Thein Sein, military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann. Even as vote counting continued on Wednesday, Suu Kyi requested the meeting, clearly in order to discuss the handover of power to a government that she has indicated she will run. “We cannot say exactly when they will meet as the counting process is still going at the UEC [the government’s Union Election Commission],” Zaw Htay, a presidential aide, told the Nikkei Asian Review. “Perhaps it will be next week,” Zaw Htay added. Letters from Suu Kyi to each of the three leaders requesting meetings to discuss “national reconciliation,” dated Nov. 10, were posted on the NLD Facebook page on the morning of Nov. 11. Their publication prompted swift replies — also on Facebook — from Ye Htut, the president’s spokesman, and from Shwe Mann.

Country heads to historic poll amid kaleidoscopic politics – Nikkei Asian Review

YANGON – Speaking to an estimated 100,000 red-clad supporters gathered in a field beside Yangon’s Thuwanna Pagoda on Nov. 1, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi appeared ebullient, exhorting the cheering crowd to ditch the current military-backed government. “I want to tell you again to vote for us if you want to see real changes in the country,” Suu Kyi said, her call drawing rapturous acclaim from the crowd. On Friday, the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, dominated by former military men and civil servants, gathered at best 10,000 supporters in the same field, where a mix of crooners and pop acts tried to rev up the crowd up ahead of a keynote speech by Nanda Kyaw Swa, a member of the USDP’s central committee. Not content with telling the crowd that the USDP is supremely confident of holding on to power, Nanda Kyaw Swa added some extra bravado: “Let me tell you in advance that we have won.”

Myanmar ruling party in u-turn on ouster of speaker – Nikkei Asian Review

KANYUNTKWIN, BAGO, Myanmar — By noon on Wednesday, it appeared that the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party had finally lost patience with Shwe Mann, the parliamentary speaker who was ousted as party chair in August after a long running rivalry with Myanmar President Thein Sein. Htay Oo, the USDP’s acting chair, told the BBC that Shwe Mann, a candidate in Myanmar’s imminent parliamentary elections, had been formally and finally removed from the party two days before. Htay Oo said the decision had been taken because “those who no longer serve the party should no longer be member[s].” Later the same afternoon, however, after various party spokespersons had said anonymously to local media that Shwe Mann had not been expelled, the party issued a statement dismissing his ouster as a “rumor.” “All senior ministers were away for the November 8 election, so no meeting of any kind was held at USDP headquarters,” Kyaw Thura, the party’s head of public relations, told the media in Naypyitaw.

Myanmar backtracks on plan to postpone poll – Nikkei Asian Review

YANGON — Hours after Myanmar’s main opposition party objected to a proposal by the country’s Union Election Commission to postpone a national poll scheduled for Nov. 8, the government changed tack and announced that the vote would go ahead as scheduled. The suggestion to delay the poll was made by election commission chairman Tin Aye at an Oct. 13 meeting with several of Myanmar’s main political parties. Later that day, however, state media carried an announcement that the election will proceed on Nov. 8 as planned. Win Htein, who represented the main opposition National League for Democracy at the meeting, said the election commission’s about-turn was baffling. “I don’t know why they changed their minds,” he told the NAR. “I think they believed that the public would be angry if they changed the date.” The NLD had earlier opposed the proposed delay.

Rohingya MP banned from contesting election – Nikkei Asian Review

YANGON — One of five lawmakers from Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority who have sat in the country’s national and regional parliaments since 2010 has been barred from contesting the upcoming Nov. 8 national election. Shwe Maung, speaking to the Nikkei Asian Review on Sunday, said he had received an official notice from the government’s election commission that he was not eligible to run in the election – even though he holds a seat in national parliament. He said he would appeal the decision take by the district election sub-commission in Maungdaw, a Rohingya-majority district in northern Rakhine state, bordering Bangladesh. “I have seven days to appeal and perhaps tomorrow I will make the appeal at the Rakhine state regional electoral commission,” said Shwe Maung, who was elected in 2010 as a lawmaker in Myanmar’s lower house, representing the Union Solidarity and Development Party.

Suu Kyi’s party drops first hints on plans – Nikkei Asian Review

YANGON – In a rare discussion of the party’s economic thinking, Han Tha Myint said the NLD wants to press on with the liberalization of the banking sector. In October 2014, nine foreign banks were awarded restricted licenses to operate in Myanmar as part of a gradual opening up to foreign investment. Foreign banks are limited to a single branch each, cannot serve individuals or locally owned companies, and are prohibited from making loans in kyat, the local currency. Han Tha Myint maintained the NLD would loosen these restrictions, saying, “It will be much better for the economy.”