Myanmar’s ruling party conceded defeat in a general election on Monday 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.
The acting chairman of Myanmar’s ruling party, Htay Oo, conceded defeat to the opposition and said he would accept the result.
Voices rang out in unison Monday, as hundreds of jubilant people gathered outside the opposition party headquarters where images of Suu Kyi were being shown on large-screen TVs.
The keenly watched vote was Myanmar’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.
Myanmar’s opposition party says it has won virtually every seat in Parliament from the four states for which results are known in a landslide victory that is expected to continue in the remaining 10 states.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party began announcing its tallies Monday evening, revealing sweeps in Yangon, Ayeyarwaddy, Bago and Mon.
“She’s the people’s leader who the whole world knows,” the crowds sang. “Write your own history in your hearts for our future so the dictatorship will end. Go, go, go away dictatorship.”
The results represent a rout of the military-backed Union Solidarity Development Party, which replaced five decades of military rule in 2011 with a quasi-civilian government.
On this day in 2010, Aung San Suu Kyi walked free after more than seven years under house arrest in Myanmar. Five years later, her party is the likely winner in the country’s general elections.
From street vendors to intellectuals to former political prisoners who suffered torture and imprisonment, pro-democracy supporters were jubilant at the idea of a Suu Kyi victory, and the weakening of a military-backed regime in a country where iron-fisted generals have held sway for half a century.
Even some pro-government voters hailed Sunday’s general election, if only in hopes that a new government would bring improvement to their lives in one of the world’s most impoverished nations. Celebrations were occurring across the country, but enthusiasm probably ran highest around the headquarters of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in Yangon, where her spokesmen said the party was headed for a landslide victory. Final official results are not expected until Tuesday at the earliest.
Even some foreign tourists got caught up in the atmosphere, posing for photographs after donning T-shirts and headbands with the NLD’s “fighting peacock” logo.
“I think Mother Suu will win. She must win,” said Thet Paing Oo, a 24-year-old fruit seller, referring to the leader with an affectionate term that many people here use. “There will be more freedom in our country if the NLD wins. Our country will be better. Our lives will be better.”
While not without problems, the election appeared to have passed generally freely.
“This election has given the people an opportunity to voice their will, and the groundswell of people’s support provides some sense of solace for the people who have suffered and made sacrifices for the past 30 years,” said Ko Ko Gyi, a former student leader and one of thousands of people imprisoned during the military’s rule.
Journalists and monitors were even given access to voting on a vast military base in Naypyitaw, the capital city that is home to most military leaders and top civil servants. Even in Naypyitaw, some supporters of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party said they hoped the election would bring change and a better future.
A soldier’s wife, 31-year-old Lu Ti, said she liked both current President Thein Sein and Suu Kyi, who was “also good in her own way.”
Political analyst Yan Myo Thein said he was “very happy with the election outcome,” adding that he now hoped for a smooth transfer of power. The junta annulled the results after Suu Kyi swept the polls in 1990.
The military relinquished formal power in 2011 when Thein Sein, who chairs the USDP, began some tentative reforms. But many in Myanmar view him as a puppet of the still-powerful generals.
Even with a commanding victory, the NLD will have its work cut out in Parliament, where 25 percent of seats are reserved for the military. Suu Kyi herself cannot become president since a constitutional amendment bars anyone with a foreign spouse or husband from holding the position. Suu Kyi’s late husband was British, as are her two sons.
Suu Kyi has insisted, though, that the constitution will not keep her down if the NLD wins, saying she will “be above the president.”
Compiled from Reuters and Associated Press wires
Myanmar election: Anxious wait for results of landmark vote
Votes are still being counted in Myanmar’s freest elections in 25 years. But the opposition party claims it’s swept 4 of the 14 states where results are known.
The leader of the main opposition party, Aung San Suu Kyi, appeared confident of victory, while some senior ruling party figures conceded they had lost their seats. And the military government admits it had a poor showing.
CCTV’s Rian Maelzer reports from Yangon.
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