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ICC Note: Hope are high for Myanmar’s Christians and other religious or ethnic minorities leading up to Myanmar’s November 8 elections.  Some of the obstacles to a free and fair election for all of Myanmar citizens are the impact of flooding on voter turnout and the exclusion of some voters and candidates based on ethnicity.

By John Zaw

09/09/2015 Myanmar (UCANews.com)

Political parties in Myanmar have launched their campaigns ahead of long-awaited national elections on Nov. 8.

Parties from the country’s ethnic-based states, many of them heavily populated by Christians, have high hopes for stronger parliamentary representation. But the official start of the campaign period, Sept. 8, also comes as many Muslim Rohingya candidates find themselves disqualified from running.

Many observers see the upcoming election as a test of the quasi-civilian government’s commitment to political reforms. For ethnic minorities in the wildly diverse country, the election could represent a major opportunity. Two-thirds of the 90 registered political parties represent minority groups from Myanmar’s seven ethnic-based states.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, or NLD, will contest the election after boycotting the 2010 polls, which saw the ruling military junta nominally hand over control of the country to an elected parliament — albeit one where the military still holds sway.

Many observers believe Suu Kyi’s party could win a majority of seats in November, ahead of its main rival, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party.

In Myanmar’s ethnic states, however, Suu Kyi will be challenged by ethnicity aligned local parties dissatisfied with politics as usual.

“Ethnic people have low trust in her, so [the NLD] is most unlikely to take seats over ethnic parties,” said Paul Hawi Ying, a Catholic Upper House lawmaker from the Chin Progressive Party, based in Christian-majority Chin state. “We have high hopes that ethnic people will vote for ethnic parties.”

He said voting for local parties will give marginalized minority communities more of a say in the future of Myanmar, and bring positive development to remote Chin state, one of the most impoverished areas in the country.

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