Burma elections: Key race in Rangoon

By Soe Win Than
BBC Burmese

image captionLocals say Rangoon's mayor is using promises of new roads and improved services to buy their votes

In Rangoon a David versus Goliath-style race between a top junta man and a former political prisoner is attracting attention.

Aung Thein Lin is the powerful mayor of Rangoon.

A former brigadier-general, he shed his military uniform only a few months ago to run for a parliamentary seat for the junta's Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

His challenger for the South Okkalapa constituency is Kaung Myint Htut, a former political prisoner who is running as an independent in the 7 November polls.

The 35-year-old took part in the nationwide uprising in 1988 when he was a student. Aged just 13, he was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison.

In 1990, Aung San Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy, won the country's election by a landslide but the junta ignored the results and have remained in power ever since.

"I deliberately decided to run against [Aung Thein Lin] because what he embodies is the 22 years of military dictatorship," Kaung Myint Htut told the BBC.

"I had been the victim of that ruthless rule. I am determined to end this dictatorship in Burma."

'Empty promises'

He faces a tough challenge to make an impact in the polls, given his rival's access to the USDP's endless resources and powerful campaign machinery.

As mayor, Aung Thein Lin oversees development works in the city. Local people say he is using promises of new roads and improved services to buy their votes.

He said in a recent interview with a local paper that he was absolutely sure he would win the seat.

Kaung Myint Htut cannot not match the money Aung Thein Lin is spending. He can only hope that people will see past his rival's promises.

"I know people support me. They understand that I am with them. I am one of them and I represent their suffering under this military rule."