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  • A man puts his ballot into a ballot box at a polling station as he vote during by-elections in Yangon, Myanmar, April 1, 2017.

    A man puts his ballot into a ballot box at a polling station as he vote during by-elections in Yangon, Myanmar, April 1, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Over 2 million voters, less than 5 percent of the population, can vote in the by-elections where seats in eight states and regions are up for grabs.

Myanmar goes to the polls on Saturday for the first time since Aung San Suu Kyi's party swept to power a year ago, in an early indication of views on her leadership amid increased fighting with armed ethnic groups and slower economic growth.

The by-elections will fill 19 vacant seats in the national and regional parliaments at a time when Suu Kyi is struggling to match the sky-high expectations that swept her National League for Democracy to victory.

In a televised address earlier this week, Suu Kyi acknowledged the public's frustration with the slow pace of reforms and development.

But she also reiterated her top priority of ending the ethnic conflicts that have kept Myanmar in a state of near-perpetual civil war.

While the outcome of the by-elections will not affect the balance of power within the parliament where the NLD enjoys a large majority, it offers a chance to gauge the popularity of the administration in a country where nationwide public polls are not available.

Win Htein, one of the NLD's top leaders, said the party faced language barriers and problems with armed groups in the Shan state districts being contested. Fighting in some of those areas has intensified in recent months.

The Union Election Commission is expected to announce official results late on Saturday.

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