For part-time astrologer Aung Shwe, success in Myanmar’s historic elections was written in the stars long before the ballot box made him the only member of his political party to win at the polls.
The Democratic Party candidate for Mandalay’s regional parliament said his victory in the Nov 8 vote came as no surprise, in a nation where the occult is believed to be as common in the highest echelons of power as it is on streetside stalls.
“I made a calculation using my date of birth and my astrological thinking and I found I would win this election,” he said, adding that the absence of competition from Aung San Suu Kyi’s wildly popular party may also have smoothed his way to a seat.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won a resounding landslide that wiped many smaller parties from parliament and looks set to redraw the political landscape in Myanmar after decades of military domination.
A new parliament, due to sit in February, will see a flood of fledgling NLD lawmakers including poets, hip-hop stars, former political prisoners and doctors.
The size of the NLD victory took many political analysts by surprise.
Not so for Aung Shwe.
“I also knew the NLD would celebrate such a landslide, by astrology,” said the former school teacher, who gave up his career in education in favour of politics to pursue a “vision for my country”.
Myanmar’s fortune tellers are thought to be behind several unexplained occurrences in the country, including the abrupt decision by the former junta to relocate the capital in 2005.
Reliance on astrologers dates back hundreds of years – Myanmar’s former kings regularly consulted their fortune tellers and even now most ordinary people have an astrological chart drawn up at birth.
Ne Win, the strongman who ruled Myanmar for around three decades, was notorious for his use of mystics.
In the late 1980s, the military leader caused economic chaos when he introduced notes in the local kyat currency of 45 and 90, because the numbers added up to his lucky number nine.
Aung Shwe plans to promote business and development during his time in the parliament in Mandalay.
“Myanmar has a brighter future, according to my astrology,” he said confidently.