Tue, Nov 10, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Myanmar’s ruling party concedes defeat to NLD

LANDSLIDE:Aung San Suu Kyi urged supporters to be patient even as early results showed that her party was on track to win more than 70 percent of parliament seats

Reuters, NAYPYIDAW and HINTHADA, Myanmar

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

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

By late afternoon, vendors outside the headquarters of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Yangon were selling red T-shirts with Aung San Suu Kyi’s image and the words “We won.”

The election commission later began announcing constituency-by-constituency results from Sunday’s poll. All of the first 12 parliamentary seats announced were won by the NLD.

The keenly watched vote was Myanmar’s first general election since its long-ruling military ceded power to Burmese 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 percent of the seats being contested in parliament, above the two-thirds threshold it needs to form Myanmar’s first democratically elected government since the early 1960s.

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

Earlier, a smiling Aung San Suu Kyi appeared on the balcony of the NLD’s headquarters and in a brief address urged supporters to be patient and wait for the official results.

Traffic squeezed at a walking pace through a fast-gathering crowd outside the NLD office after the first results were announced. They listened to songs and watched an Aung San Suu Kyi video on a big screen hung from the building, although many huddled under umbrellas as torrential rain dampened the mood.

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

It is also a moment that Aung San 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, and the chief of the armed forces have pledged to respect the result.

However, although the election appears to have dealt a decisive defeat to the USDP, a period of uncertainty still looms over the country, because it is not clear how Aung San Suu Kyi will share power easily with the still dominant military.

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

The charter also gives the armed forces the right to take over the government under certain circumstances. The military also maintains a grip on the economy through holding companies.

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

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