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Suu Kyi's party wins historic Myanmar polls

13 november 2015, 16:40
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Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and head of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party casts her ballot at a polling center in Yangon. ©AFP
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and head of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party casts her ballot at a polling center in Yangon. ©AFP

Aung San Suu Kyi's party secured a landslide election victory in Myanmar on Friday, propelling the pro-democracy movement to power after a 25-year struggle against authoritarian rule, AFP reports.

It promises a new dawn for a country asphyxiated by half a century of army rule that battered the economy and repressed its people.

In a reflection of rapid changes that have swept the country, confirmation of the win came five years to the day since Suu Kyi was released from house arrest by the military.

She has now led her National League for Democracy party to a massive popular mandate with more than 80 percent of seats going to the movement.

The NLD on Friday sailed through the two-thirds majority it needs to rule, claiming 364 parliamentary seats with a number of results yet to be declared.

The election has won praise from observers for its smooth, peaceful passing, in a country where violence and repression has normally met democratic milestones. 

"We have been ready to form a new government for many years," party spokesman Nyan Win told AFP, greeting the result.

Suu Kyi, 70, has not spoken to the party faithful since Monday.

In Yangon there were no immediate signs of celebration after the party figurehead urged restraint from supporters, aware of the threat of a backlash in a country where the army's writ remains large. 

Under Myanmar's complex political system, the NLD will also have to wait until March next year for the transfer of power.

That gap has left some party loyalists nervous at the potential for political chicanery by an army establishment that wields substantial power, despite its chastening at the polls.

But the comfortable majority gives Suu Kyi's party control of the lower and upper houses, allowing it to elect the president and form the government.

  Long wait  

Suu Kyi, 70, is barred from the presidency by a junta-scripted constitution, which also guarantees the army a 25-percent bloc of seats.

She has already vowed to govern from "above the president" saying she will circumnavigate the charter ban by backing a proxy to run for the top office.

The win represents a huge stride in Suu Kyi's decades-long journey from political prisoner, held under house arrest for 15 years by the former junta, to the heart of power.

Many NLD supporters have waited 25 years for their vote to count.

"I'm so happy... Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will do more for us than the current government," said 66-year-old street vendor Moe Thu.

Buoyed by her party's sweep of the polls, Suu Kyi has called for "national reconciliation talks" with President Thein Sein and army chief Min Aung Hlaing.

Both men have congratulated the NLD on its election performance and have vowed to abide by the result as well as help a peaceful transition of power.

The lower house speaker Shwe Mann has also been invited to talks but his political stock appears low after losing his seat and falling out with many senior figures from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party.

The USDP, which is made up of former military cadres, has been mauled at the election.

Yet the president, a former general who swapped his uniform for civilian clothes to lead the government in 2011, has won praise for steering the reforms that culminated in Sunday's peaceful poll.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon congratulated Suu Kyi for her election win, but also hailed the "courage and vision" of Thein Sein for "leadership in the reform process".

Those reforms have seen many political prisoners released, the restoration of basic freedoms and the economy resuscitated after years of madcap junta planning.  

The international community has welcomed the election, with US President Barack Obama calling both Suu Kyi and the president to offer his congratulations.

Obama has spent great efforts on helping Myanmar's transition from authoritarian rule to an emergent democracy, visiting the country twice in the last four years.

Yet the country's military is not about to disappear. It retains major influence with its parliamentary bloc, which effectively assures a veto over constitutional change.

It also has key ministerial posts reserved under the charter.

Many NLD supporters remain deeply suspicious of the army and its political allies, who are notorious for dirty tricks and crackdowns that have left hundreds dead and thousands jailed.


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