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Myanmar's parliament may have no Muslims, interviews with parties suggest

By Aung Naing Soe
November 9, 2015

Religious diversity may be the real loser of Myanmar's historic election yesterday.

No Muslim candidates won, according to interviews with parties involved in the races (the results are not official).

In the face of pressure from hardline Buddhist groups, the Union Election Commission approved only about 20 Muslim candidates in an election with more than 6,000 people running. Myanmar's Muslim population is estimated to be about 5 percent, but possible higher.

The party with the biggest presence in this small category was the United National Congress, or UNC, which traces its legacy to U Razak, the Muslim politician murdered alongside Aung San in 1947.

The UNC fielded about half of the total, and one of its members was the sole Muslim candidate in Mandalay.

Thazin Hlaing, a UNC campaign organizer and spokesperson, said: "We ran in 10 constituencies, all were lost.”

Another largely Muslim group, the Democracy Party of Human Rights.

There were 3 other candidates representing the Democracy and Human Rights Party also failed to win the three contested seats in Yangon and Rakhine state, said Kyaw Soe Aung, the personal assistant to one of the DHRP candidates.

"We lost," he said.“we were lost, we could not win."

Other Muslim candidates in Yangon's Pabedan Township also went down in the election, according to Kyaw Soe Aung. The candidates could not be reached to confirm his report.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims were not allowed to vote in the election because their identity documents were taken away, and dozens of Muslim candidates' applications to run were rejected.

But interviews with many Muslim voters in Yangon indicate that the powerhouse appeal of the NLD (which didn't field any candidates from their faith) was too strong to vote along religious lines.

Photo of UNC candidate Sann Tin Kyaw on campaign trail in Yangon this month / Aung Naing Soe / Coconuts Yangon

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