YANGON: Aung San Suu Kyi’s government faced its first test at the ballot box on Saturday in by-elections around Myanmar seen as a barometer for growing disillusionment with her party’s first year in power.
The euphoria that surrounded the democracy icon’s landslide electoral win in 2015 has ebbed as her party struggles to push through promised reforms.
Discontent is particularly acute in ethnic minority areas where many see Suu Kyi as working too closely with the military, which ran the country for 50 years and still controls key levers of government.
With only 19 seats up for election, the poll is unlikely to alter the balance of power in a government firmly dominated by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.
But the voting may offer a glimpse of the public’s view on the NLD’s first year in office— a rocky 12 months marked by a surge in border unrest and disappointing economic gains.
Hundreds of voters lined up outside polling stations on the outskirts of Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon Saturday, though the scenes lacked the fanfare and enthusiasm of the historic 2015 election.
Chit Min, from Dagon Seikkan suburb, told Agence France-Presse many of his friends decided not to vote this time around.
“But I am sure the NLD will win again,” he added.
The party will face its toughest challenge to the north in Shan State, where tens of thousands have been displaced by recent fighting between the army and ethnic insurgents.
“There are many victims of war here and other ethnic areas now,” said Sai One Leng Kham, an upper house MP from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy.
“Sometimes (the NLD) works without any understanding of what’s going on on the ground.”