Myanmar’s election commission scrapped November by-elections in 35 parliamentary seats, citing the pressure of hosting an upcoming regional summit and extra costs ahead of a nationwide poll in 2015. The Union Election Commission made the surprise announcement after a meeting with more than 30 political parties in Yangon. Explaining the decision, deputy director of the commission Hla Maung Cho said the number of lawmakers who would have been returned to parliament in the by-elections “will not make a big difference” to voting. He cited Myanmar’s chairing of the Asean summit in November and the high cost of contesting polls for smaller political parties that were also planning their campaigns for the nationwide vote slated for November next year.
The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) secured a landslide victory in by-elections in April 2012, sending party leader Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament as the nation pressed forward with democratic reforms after decades of military rule. Suu Kyi’s party is widely tipped to sweep full polls in 2015 if they are free and fair.
An NLD spokesman welcomed the cancellation of the by-elections. “They were pretty rushed,” Nyan Win of Suu Kyi’s party said. “Now, we can prepare better for the general election.”