Myanmar election race kicks off despite ban on big rallies

Myanmar election race kicks off despite ban on big rallies

Election campaigns in Myanmar officially started on Tuesday and will end on Nov. 6, two days before the vote, as the country approaches itsfirst democraticelection since 2015.

The election will put 498 seats up for grabs in the 664-seat bicameral Union Parliament, in which 25% of the seats are constitutionally reserved for appointed military representatives. Candidates receiving the most votes in their respective constituencies win.

Of the 75% the seats being contested, Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy party has to win more than two-thirds in order to retain a majority in parliament. The party won in a landslide in the 2015 general election, securing 80% of the seats.

However, the political landscape has significantly changed since then, well after the military junta ceded power to civilian authorities in 2011.

This year, the NLD is being challengednot only by the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party — the largest opposition party — and ethnic minority parties,but also new parties such as the People’s Pioneer Party, People’s Party and the Union Betterment Party.

The newcomers were founded by those formerly close to Aung San Suu Kyi, such as the PPP, which was established in October by Thet Thet Khine, a lawmaker who left the NLD.

Suu Kyi’s NLD also has to compete with former ally Ko Ko Gyi and his PP. Ko Ko Gyi was a student leader for democracy decades ago and a major supporter of Suu Kyi during the transition to democracy.

The UBP is led by Shwe Mann, a former speaker of the parliament and also a previous Suu Kyi ally.

Campaigns kicked off amid reports of rising coronavirus cases, causing problems for all parties.