YANGON, Myanmar – Myanmar held by-elections on Saturday for 13 vacant seats in the national and regional parliaments, a process set to test the popularity of the government.
Voters were electing four lawmakers for the House of Representatives (lower house), one in the House of Nationalities (upper house) and eight in the state or regional parliaments.
A total of 69 candidates are in the fray, including seven independents, while the rest belong to 24 political parties.
The by-elections are in an important indicator of support for the ruling National League for Democracy party, led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, ahead of the 2020 general elections.
In the 2015 general elections, the NLD won 135 of the 224 seats in the upper house, 255 out of 440 in the lower house and 476 out of 850 in the regional parliaments.
The number could have been higher if the constitution, drafted and approved in 2008 under the military junta, had not reserved 25% of the legislative seats for military appointees, a number sufficient to prevent constitutional amendments.
The Union Solidarity and Development Party, a party led by the military top brass, managed to get 11 senators, 30 deputies and 73 regional lawmakers elected in the 2015 elections.
The USDP has announced 10 candidates for the by-elections while the NLD is contesting all 13 seats.
Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, is the de-facto leader of the first democratic government of Myanmar, elected after half a century of military rule.
However, Suu Kyi, whose government assumed charge on March 30, 2016, does not control the armed forces or the ministries of defense, interior and border affairs, and does not have the power to change the status quo by modifying the constitution as she lacks the necessary parliamentary majority.