Aung San Suu Kyi’s government will face its first test at the ballot box on Saturday (April 1) in by-elections around Myanmar seen as a barometer for growing disillusionment with her party a year after it took office.
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 that 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 into the public’s view on the party’s first year in power.
Hundreds of voters lined up outside polling stations on the outskirts of Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon early Saturday, though the scene lacked the fanfare and enthusiasm that marked the historic 2015 polls.
The party will face its toughest challenge to the north in Shan State, where tens of thousands have been displaced by a surge in fighting between the army and ethnic insurgents.
In strife-torn Rakhine State on Myanmar’s western coastline, the party will face a strong challenge not only from the local ethnic minority Arakan National Party but also the military-backed USDP.
The USDP led the transitional government that took over from the junta in 2011, but was trounced in elections four years later that swept the NLD to power.
To the south in Mon, the NLD is facing a backlash over the naming of a new bridge after Suu Kyi’s father that many see as a symbol of the party’s disregard for minorities.
Myanmar’s economic and political elite, including the NLD, have long been dominated by the majority Bamar ethnicity.