11/09/2015, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Aung San Suu Kyi’s landslide is the dawn of a new era in Myanmar

by Francis Khoo Thwe
In the first free elections in 25 years, the opposition is heading for a landslide victory. Ms Suu Kyi is expected to play a key role in the new government. Ruling party admits defeat. In Kachin State, the turnout was good. Some isolated irregularities were recorded, but Rohingya were excluded. International community welcomes the outcome but now all eyes are on the military.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Myanmar's opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) says it is confident of victory in the first openly contested national election in 25 years.

For Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement, the resounding defeat of the military-backed Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP) opens the door to the chambers of power.

An NLD spokesman said it expected the party to win about 70 per cent of seats. For her part, Party leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi only said, "I think you all have the idea of the results."

Still, some call for caution because the military still intends to play a crucial role in the country’s future and is not expected to celebrate the change in government.

In fact, official results have been released only for Yangon. Out of 36 seats, 35 were won by the NLD.

U Htay Oo, the USDP acting chairman who lost his own seat in the constituency of Hinthada, said "We have to find out the reason why we lost”. In the meantime, "we do accept the results without any reservations."

The state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar called the election the "dawn of a new era".

Preliminary results were expected within hours of Sunday's vote, and a full nationwide count in 10 days or so, the Union Election Commission (UEC) said. However, the latter delayed its first official announcement by several hours, probably due to logistical problems.

During the campaign, human rights groups had criticised the Election Commission's lack of independence. Election monitors also raised concerns over the absence of agreed procedures for resolving disputed results.

For the president, voters will have to wait until February or possibly later when the new parliament holds its first session.

Under the country’s constitution, a quarter of the parliamentary seats have been reserved for the military. For the NLD, this means it has to win at least two-thirds of the contested seats to have  a majority.

Since the vote, tens of thousands of officials and volunteers have been counting the ballots, first in each of the 50,000 polling stations, then tallying them in constituency offices of the Election Commission.

Foreign activists and international observers noted that the UEC carried out a “well-organised” general election, and that the voting process was generally smooth, with only some isolated irregularities.

About 30 million people were eligible to vote in Sunday's election. Turnout has been estimated at about 80 per cent.

However, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims were not allowed to vote in the election in Rakhine State, in western Myanmar, where they have suffered persecution at the hand of local authorities and Buddhist extremists.

The turnout was particularly high in minority states, especially in the northern state of Kachin, scene of fighting in the past four years between the local independence movement and the national army.

Local sources report that thousands of happy voters braved the icy morning air of Myitkyina to queue up at polling stations across the city.

Although not all results are in yet, Aung San Suu Kyi, 70, can claim a personal victory after becoming an iconic figure in her people’s struggle for human rights in the past few years.

Affectionately nicknamed ‘The Lady,’ she is expected to play a leading role in the new administration. However, under the constitution, she is barred from becoming president.

Before the vote, she challenged the military on the issue. The latter refused to change the charter and thus left her out of the race for the post of head of state.

Still, the opposition leader said that, in case of her party’s victory, she would lead the government and yet be "above the president".

In fact, Aung San Suu Kyi seems ready to take on the burden of power after years of struggle despite the lack of a clear institutional role. Her goal is a government of national reconciliation.

In October 2013, in an exclusive interview with AsiaNews, the Nobel laureate had said that a democratic Burma would be built on values of peace and unity.

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