Aung San Suu Kyi's 'landslide' victory expected in Myanmar elections

Yesterday’s vote went off without a hitch. Voters wore masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but social distancing was not always respected. An NLD landslide is expected. However, in Rakhine state, 72 per cent of those eligible could not vote.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Myanmar went to the polls yesterday in a general election with a large turnout without any serious problems, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and recent tensions, fuelled by radical Buddhists close to the former military junta.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) and its leader, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, are expected to win, this according to the People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE), a local independent election observer group that monitored yesterday’s vote.

“Overall, the election-day process was peaceful, and no major incidents were recorded,” PACE said in a statement.

NDL spokesperson Myo Nyunt expects a landslide. “We won't only win the 322 seats we need to form a government but we expect to break our 2015 record of 390." The party might even get 398 seats against 14 for the military-backed party.

Party members and supporters welcomed the news, celebrating late into the night on Sunday – hundreds driving in convoys, wearing red and flying the party's fighting peacock flag.

A final vote tally may take days and the results will not be announced soon. Once the new lawmakers take office, the two chambers will hold a joint session to elect the country’s president.

In the capital Naypyidaw, the NLD leads in nine of ten electoral districts. The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is leading only in Zeyathiri, a township where top military brass live.

Meanwhile, almost 1,900 PACE observers, deployed in all 14 states and regions to monitor the electoral process, have given a mostly positive review of the election.

In all, more than 37 million people voted at almost 40,000 polling stations. Wearing masks, albeit not always respecting the appropriate social distance, millions of voters took part in Myanmar’s second national election since the end of the military dictatorship in 2011.

However, the vote was not held in certain areas since the Union Election Commission (UEC) could not guarantee minimum security conditions because of ongoing violence. This was the case for Rakhine State, where 72 per cent of eligible voters could not cast their ballot.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the favourite, remains a heroine for many in the Bamar (Burmese) majority heartland, in spite of a global reputation left in tatters by her handling of the Rohingya crisis and widespread disillusionment in many ethnic minority areas.

As a senior citizen, the NLD leader, 75, voted on 29 October, since voters over 60 were allowed to cast their ballot before the rest to avoid gatherings that might spread the virus and aggravate a pandemic that is seemingly hitting the country hard.

The former icon for the pro-democracy struggle, who spent decades under house arrest, showed up to vote wearing mask and latex gloves.

In 2015, the NLD won a landslide victory, which it hopes to repeat today by getting a two-thirds majority in the Union Assembly, the country’s bicameral parliament. Voters choose 500 of the 664 seats in the assembly.

Controlling two-thirds of the parliament is crucial, because the military-imposed constitution gives the Armed Forces the power to appoint 25 per cent of the seats in both houses.