Rakhine Votes in 2015: The Roles of Ethnicity and Buddhist-Nationalism in Rakhine State Election Results

Rakhine Votes in 2015

Abstract: In the November 8 election, the Arakan (Rakhine) National Party (ANP) bucked the national trend of the NLD’s landslide victory by winning most of the Rakhine State’s seats. ANP won 22 out of 29 seats of the national Parliament. In the State legislature, the ANP has the largest share of seats by winning 23 seats out of 35. From the state-level perspective, ANP victories could be explained in terms of the strength of Rakhine ethno-nationalism and the ongoing communal antagonism between Buddhist and Muslim communities. However, the electoral support for ANP in Rakhine State varied district to district, a detailed analysis showed ANP won convincingly in most northern constituencies while having weaker support in the southern areas. These electoral support patterns reflect the complex picture of relationships between Rakhine ethnicity, ethno-nationalist politics and Buddhist nationalism. The more important question is what can we draw from the Rakhine State Election results which reversed the national trend of the NLD’s “Red Tsunami”.

Than Tun completed PhD in Anthropology from the University of Western Australia, focusing on the Rakhine People who live across the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. His research interests centre on the politics of ethnic and national identities, ethno-nationalism and Myanmar’s transition. Than Tun recently returned from Myanmar, after working as the Deputy Director of Research at the Myanmar Development Resource Institute-Centre for Economic and Social Development.

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