Arakan National Party wins the most seats in Rakhine despite vote cancellations that weakened its hand 

The Arakan National Party (ANP) has won eight out of the 13 national parliamentary seats up for grabs in Rakhine state, a resounding show of support for the party in one of the few areas of the country where voters rejected the NLD. 

The ANP’s position was considerably weakened when the election commission cancelled voting last month in numerous constituencies where it expected to win.

The party nonetheless secured resounding wins in areas where the vote went ahead, signalling a widespread rejection of a government that supported military attacks against the Arakan Army in a conflict that has thrown the state into chaos. 

It won four Pyithu Hluttaw, or lower house, seats in Sittwe, Ramree, Taungup and Munaung and four Amyotha Hluttaw seats in Sittwe, Kyaukphyu, Munaung, Ramree and Ann, and Taungup.  

It also secured seven seats in the Rakhine State Hluttaw, two each in Sittwe, Ramree and Munaung, and one in Taungup.

Even in southern areas of Rakhine, where the NLD has more influence, the ANP won a majority of constituencies.

“The Rakhine people have more appreciation for ethnonationalism and more understanding of self-determination,” said Kyaw Win Chay of the ANP’s central victory committee. “They’re starting to crave federalism more.”

In 2015, the ANP won 22 national seats  – a majority of the 29 that were available in the state at the time – and 22 of the 35 elected seats in the State Hluttaw.

This year only 14 seats were up for grabs in the State Hluttaw because of voting cancellations. Nine townships in northern Rakhine had elections cancelled entirely, while others had partial cancellations. 

Only Thandwe, Munaung, Gwa and Ramree had full elections while polling stations opened in parts of Sittwe, Taungup, Ann and Kyaukphyu.

Two other Rakhine parties, the Arakan League for Democracy (ALD) and the Arakan Front Party (AFP) also competed this year, but fared less well. 

Dr Tin Mar Aung, an ALD candidate and former personal assistant to Aung San Suu Kyi, lost out to the ANP’s Khin Myo Yin for a State Hluttaw seat in Taungup. 

“I lost. We can’t tell for sure what’s the next step because we haven’t had a meeting yet,” Dr Tin Mar Aung said.

Among the five national parliamentary seats that the ANP did not win, the NLD took three and the USDP and the AFP took one each.

The NLD won in Gwa and Thandwe townships, claiming two seats in the Pyithu Hluttaw, one in the Amyotha Hluttaw and four in the State Hluttaw.

“It was a very tight race,” said NLD candidate Ye Khaung Nyunt, who won the Gwa township Pyithu Hluttaw seat.

The AFP won in Kyaukphyu, picking up a seat in the Pyithu Hluttaw and two seats in the State Hluttaw.

Votes for the Chin Ethnic Affairs Minister position in Rakhine have not been fully counted yet.

Than Lwin, who won a State Hluttaw seat for the AFP, said being an MP in Rakhine state came with “more responsibility”.

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” he said.

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