Aung San Suu Kyi on course for landslide victory in Burma

Ruling party concedes in first free nationwide vote in 25 years
Aung San Suu Kyi on course for landslide victory in Burma

Burma’s ruling party conceded defeat in a general election as the opposition led by democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi appeared on course for a landslide victory that could ensure it forms the next government.

“We lost,” said Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) acting chairman Htay Oo a day after the south-east Asian country’s first free nationwide election in a quarter of a century.

By last night, vendors outside the headquarters of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Yangon were selling red T-shirts with Suu Kyi’s face and the words ‘We won’.

The election commission announced constituency-by-constituency results from Sunday’s vote. Of the first 28 parliamentary seats declared, 25 were won by Suu Kyi’s party.

The keenly watched vote was Burma’s first general election since its long-ruling military ceded power to president Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government in 2011, ushering in a period of reform and opening up to foreign investment.

The NLD said its own tally of results posted at polling stations around the country showed it was on track to win more than 70% of seats contested in parliament, above the two-thirds threshold it needs to form the first democratically elected government since the early 1960s.

“They must accept the results, even though they don’t want to,” NLD spokesman Win Htein said, adding that, in the highly populated central region, the Nobel peace laureate’s party looked set to take more than 90% of seats.

The election was a landmark in the country’s unsteady journey to democracy from the military dictatorship that made it a pariah state for so long.

It is also a moment that Suu Kyi will relish after spending years under house arrest following the country’s 1990 election, when the NLD won a landslide victory that was ignored by the junta.

This time the ruling party, created by the former junta and led by retired military officers, as well as the chief of the armed forces have pledged to respect the result.

Although the election appears to have dealt a decisive defeat to the USDP, a period of uncertainty still looms as it is not clear how Suu Kyi will share power easily with the still-dominant military.

The junta-drafted constitution guarantees one-quarter of parliament’s seats to unelected members of the military and allows the commander-in-chief to nominate the head of three powerful ministries: Interior, defence, and border security.

The charter also gives the armed forces the right to take over government under certain circumstances.

Even if the NLD gets the majority it needs, Suu Kyi is barred from taking the presidency herself under the constitution written by the junta to preserve its power.

Suu Kyi has said she would be the power behind the new president regardless of a charter she derided as “very silly”.

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