Min Tun | DMG
14 September, Sittwe

The number of first-time eligible voters in Arakan State for the 2020 general election has exceeded 200,000, according to the Arakan State election subcommission.  

Out of more than 1,640,000 eligible voters in Arakan State, first-timers account for over 200,000, according to state election officials. But rising voter rolls will not necessarily translate to higher voter turnout this year, noted U Thurein Htut, secretary of the Arakan State election subcommission. 

“Political parties are interested in the election. But the people have to grapple with their daily existences,” he said. “They cannot go outside to do their work due to the ongoing fighting and the spread of COVID-19. It also has impacts on businesspeople due to the shutdown of businesses. It is said that the people are less interested in the upcoming election.”   

U Khaing Kaung San, director of the Arakan State Election Monitoring Group, said incumbent lawmakers’ performances may also be fuelling voter apathy.  

“The people feel that the demands made by lawmakers in the parliaments are not effective. The winning parties from Arakan State are unable to raise questions in the Upper House and Lower House of Parliament,” he said.  

“As a result, the public’s trust in the current political landscape has declined as this situation continues. Young and middle-aged people have thoughts that there will be no significant change via parliamentary politics. They have an idea of engaging in revolution. It is found that the people like the acts done by the Arakan Army,” U Khaing Kaung San added. 

According to an informal DMG survey of 30 eligible voters in Arakan State, 27 respondents showed no interest in the election while only two said they are interested in the election, with the remaining respondent expressing some interest. 

More than a year ago, officials from the National League for Democracy and the Arakan National Party — two political heavyweights in Arakan State — told DMG that they feared conflict in the state would dampen voter interest in this year’s general election.  

And those predictions notably came long before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The election’s official 60-day campaign period began last week, with the nationwide vote slated for November 8.

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