Analysis of the Election Results in Karen State
The dominance of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) has swept the board winning over 83 percent of all seats, is clear proof that ethnic Karen parties have a long way to go in presenting an alternative challenge to Bamar rule in Karen State.
While many objective factors put ethnic parties at a severe disadvantage such as the campaign restrictions imposed by covid- 19, but in Karen State, the lack of unity between ethnic Karen parties and failure to form any kind of tactical merger of coalition clearly lost them a good number of seats.
By contrast, the most successful merger of different parties but with one clear political message to the voters occurred in Mon State where the MUP –Mon United Party has ended up as the best-performer after the ANP in Rakhine State.
The NLD clinched 30 out 36 seats but in a series of contests, the combined vote for all Karen parties outnumbered the electoral count for the NLD candidate.
SeatS Where Combined Vote For Karen Parties Outnumbered NLD
The NLD secured the seat in Thandaunggyi Township Constituency-2 with 8,777 votes, followed by the Karen Peoples Party KPP with 7,296 votes and the Karen National Party (KNP), with 3,566 votes.
If all the votes for two Karen parties had gone to just one united Karen party, then the result would have been different and a single Karen party would have comfortably won the seat with a total of 7,296 plus 3,566 over the NLD’s 8,277 votes with a majority of over 2000 votes.
Likewise, the split of the ethnic vote between the Karen party and the Mon party in Kyarinseikgyi Township Constituency-4 resulted in NLD securing the seat with 17,636 votes, followed by the Mon Unity Party, with 9,719 votes. The combined total of Mon and Karen votes was greater than NLD‘s figure of 17,636.
Due to the share of votes between the Mon and the Karen parties in Kyarinseikgyi Township Constituency-2, the NLD secured the seat with 16,967 votes, followed by the KNDP with 10,363 votes and the MUP with 10,207 votes again the number of votes from the two ethnic parties is higher than that of the NLD.
It is also found that the number of votes received by the Mon party and the independent candidate, at Kawkareik Township Constituency-2, is higher than that of the elected candidate from the NLD.
A total of 199 candidates competed for 36 constituencies in Karen State in the 2020 General Elections—seven for the lower house, 12 for the upper house, 13 for the Karen State parliament and three for ethnic affairs minister.
The most intense competition among all the constituencies was the upper house constituency-9 in Hlaingbwe Township in Karen State. Nan Moe Moe Htwe from the NLD, Saw Myint Han from Karen National Democratic Party (KNDP), U Tun Tun Oo from the USDP and U Myat Kyaw from the Union Betterment Party (UBP) competed in that constituency.
The 58,746 out of 123,861 eligible voters in that constituency cast their votes. The voter turnout rate was 47.43 percent. There were 4,705 spoilt votes.
The NLD garnered 20,146 votes, the KNDP, 20,141, the USDP, 13,091 and the UBP, 663. The NLD secured the seat, winning over the KNDP by five votes only. There is no report of any recount.
The failure of the UEC (Union Election Commission) to accept the need for a full recount when the winning margin is so small and the possibility of error is objectively high, does not meet international standards of democratic election due process.
In the UK general election and in most of Europe, recounting is a standard feature of every general election upon the request of the losing candidate when the margin is slender with a difference of only a few hundred votes. In each case where the NLD or the USDP have won by wafer-thin margins, ethnic voters are well- justified in their suspicion that the electoral process is severely tarnished and lacking the necessary checks and audits. This clearly sows doubt and skepticism into the minds of ethnic voters.
In Hlaingbwe Township Constituency-2, sitting Karen State Parliament Speaker Saw Chit Khin from the NLD secured the seat with 20,499 votes, after winning over Chair of KNDP Mann Aung Pyi Soe, with 19,129 votes, Saw Soe Win from the USDP, with 13,076, independent candidate Saw Kyaw Lwin Oo, 1,797 and U Aung Toe Win from the UBP, with 698.
The KNDP chair is entitled to feel aggrieved over his loss to NLD when he garnered 19,129 votes and was just pipped by NLD’s 20,499 a relatively close margin of 1,370.
The Hpapun Township Constituency-2 also saw stiff competition in Karen State where six candidates ran for the seat. Saw Myo Myint from the USDP secured the seat by 293 votes after winning over Saw Nyi Nyi from the NLD who won 3,737 votes.
In addition, there was also stiff competition between the NLD and the USDP for Upper House Constituency-5 in Hpapun Township.
A total of 22,830 of 16,038 voters cast their votes. There were 562 rejected votes. The USDP secured the seat, with 7,741 votes, U Sithu Han from the NLD, with 6,032, Saw Kyaw Soe Lin from the KNDP, 1,278 votes and U Sai Thein Kywe from the UBP, 365 votes.
In Thandaunggyi Township Constituency-1, the KPP secured the seat by 1384 votes after winning over Saw Yaw Han Kanyaw Say from the NLD. In Thandaunggyi Township Constituency-2, Saw Maung Htoo from the NLD won over Saw J A Win Myint from the KPP by 1,481 votes.
Voter turnout rates
Among 36 constituencies in Karen State, Hpapon and Thandaunggyi Townships saw the high voter turnout rates and the remaining townships, around 50 percent voter turnout rates.
Phapon Township Constituency-1 saw the highest voter turnout rate with 81.55 percent in Karen State. U Sai Than Naing from the USDP secured the seat in that constituency. The lowest voter turnout rate was reported in Myawady Township Constituency-11. The 48,880 of 103,455 voters cast their ballots which is equal to a 47.25-per-cent voter turnout. This is the lowest voter turnout rate in Karen State, said Mann Win Khaing Than, the sitting speaker of Upper House Parliament of the NLD secured that constituency.
The constituencies with the highest number of candidates
Among 36 constituencies in Karen State, the constituencies in Hpa-An Township saw the highest number of candidates contested. Seven candidates each competed in the lower house constituency and the upper house constituency-6, nine each in Township Constituency-1 and 2 and nine in Bamar Ethnic Affairs Minister constituency. The significant point is that only NLD candidates got more than 50 percent of votes in all constituencies.
According to the official figures, the public’s participation in the election is said to be high as the voter turnout rates in Karen State are above 50 percent.
There are 30 seats in Karen State— six of seven lower house seats, 11 of 12 upper house seats, 11 of 14 Karean State Parliament and two of three for ethnic affairs.
If local ethnic-based parties in Karen State are to fare better in the 2025 election they have to learn from other ethnic states where mergers found favour and approval from the people. But they also need to join with other ethnic parties in pressing for changes in the composition of the UEC and create an Ethnic electoral review of flaws in the controversial 2020 election.