Burma closer to true democracy as Aung San Suu Kyi's party continues election sweep

Burma’s transition to greater democracy after decades of military rule surged ahead as opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party continued its election sweep and the government promised a peaceful transition of power.

Burma closer to true democracy as Aung San Suu Kyi's party continues election sweep

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) said it received a message from Information Minister Ye Htut on behalf of President Thein Sein congratulating it for leading the race for parliamentary seats in Sunday’s election.

Ye Htut said the government will pursue a peaceful transfer of power “in accordance with the legislated timeline”.

The message helps remove lingering concerns that the military, which has a large influence over the ruling party, may deny the NLD power, as it did after elections in 1990.

It also means Burma is likely to have its first government in decades that isn’t under the military’s sway.

But while an NLD victory virtually assures it of being able to elect the president as well, Suu Kyi remains barred from becoming president by a constitutional provision inserted by the military before it transferred power to a quasi-civilian government in 2011.

Suu Kyi has declared, however, that she will become the country’s de facto leader, acting “above the president”, if her party forms the next government.

“I make all the decisions because I’m the leader of the winning party. And the president will be one whom we will choose just in order to meet the requirements of the constitution,” she said.

“He (the president) will have to understand he will have no authority. That he will act in accordance with the positions of the party.”

The military, which took power in a 1962 coup and brutally suppressed several pro-democracy uprisings during its rule, gave way to a nominally civilian elected government in 2011, with strings attached.

It installed retired senior officers in the ruling party to fill Cabinet posts and gave itself key powers in the constitution, including control of powerful ministries and a quarter of the seats in the 664-member two-chamber Parliament.

In a state of emergency, a military-led body can even assume state powers. Another provision bars Suu Kyi from the presidency because her sons hold foreign citizenship.

While Burma’s people voted overwhelmingly to remove the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party from power, it’s clear that the army’s involvement in politics won’t end, and the NLD will need to convince it to cooperate.

By last night, the Union Election Commission had announced the results of 216 lower house races, of which 179 were won by the NLD.

Suu Kyi won a seat from her constituency, Kawhmu. In the upper house, the NLD won 77 out of 83 announced races.

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