11/10/2015, 00.00
Send to a friend

Ready to rule, Aung San Suu Kyi says “The times have changed” in Myanmar

by Francis Khoo Thwe
For Myanmar’s main opposition leader, the election was not fair, but mostly "free". Amid fears of vote rigging, controversy pursues the Electoral Commission for the slow vote count. As people celebrate in the streets of Yangon, anticipating greater religious freedom, Catholic Kachin peace activist has high hopes for ethnic minorities.

Yangon (AsiaNews) - "The times have changed, the people have changed," said Myanmar’s main opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Her National League for Democracy (NLD) has in fact won a majority of parliamentary seats in last Sunday’s general election.

Brimming with confidence, Ms Suu Kyi told the BBC that the polls were not fair but "largely free", noting that there had been "areas of intimidation".

Although barred by the constitution  from becoming president, Aung San Suu Kyi today said that she would find a president as required, but "that won't stop me from making all the decisions as the leader of the winning party".

Although early results yesterday pointed to a sweeping victory for her National League for Democracy (NLD), final official results will not be known for days.

The NLD is expected to win more than 250 of the 330 seats not occupied by the military in the lower house of parliament. Under the country’s constitution, a quarter of the 664 parliamentary seats (in both houses) have been reserved for the military.

To form a government, the NLD must get two-thirds of the lower house. Thus far, early results indicate that the party has won around 75 per cent of the vote.

Nobel Peace Laureate and democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest, is poised to become the leading figure in Myanmar’s new administration.

The Election Commission said on Tuesday the National League for Democracy had won 78 of the 88 seats declared so far for the 440-strong lower house. However, complaints of vote rigging are starting to come forward.

In a tough statement, NLD spokesman Win Htein has accused the Election Commission of "delaying intentionally" the release of results, saying "they are trying to be crooked".

For international observers, the vote was not fair because 25 per cent of the seats in parliaments are reserved for the military. The latter will also appoint three key ministers: Interior, Defence and Border Security.

In addition, hundreds of thousands of people – including minority Rohingya Muslims, who are not recognised as citizens – were not allowed to vote, raising further concerns about the fairness of the poll. For experts, this issue has to be addressed.

Ms Suu Kyi, whose party did not field a Muslim candidate, has been criticised by some for failing to speak up more for Muslims, who have been targeted by ultra-nationalist Buddhist groups.

She said however that an NLD government would protect Muslims, adding that those who inflame hatred would face prosecution.

“Prejudice and hatred are not going to be removed easily,” she explained, but “I'm confident the great majority of the people want peace . . . they do not want to live on a diet of hate and fear.”

Foreign analysts warn of an uncertain future and possible instability because it is unclear how Ms Suu Kyi will share power with the generals.

At present, optimism reigns in the country’s streets as people celebrate an election victory after decades of military dictatorship and four years of a military-backed pseudo-civilian government.

Speaking to AsiaNews, local sources said that in Yangon, thousands of people have been celebrating the election result for the past three days.

However, ballot boxes from advanced polls (which some suspect might have been tampered) have arrived at the last moment, and might change the final outcome.

Kachin Catholic activist Khon Ja Labang, a member of the Kachin Peace Network, is happy to see the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi win; however, she doubts and fears "about their actual capacity to govern."

As a member of one of Myanmar’s 135 ethnic minorities, she cannot hide her concerns vis-à-vis certain unresolved issues. For instance, she wonders what kind of leadership will Aung San Suu Kyi provide? Will democracy and peace be truly linked in a country where fighting continues and many citizens were denied the right to vote? Will ethnic minorities have justice? What chances are there for [regional] autonomy if the state remains highly centralised?

Speaking on the matter, a Church source in Yangon that asked that his/her name be withheld, said, "Now there are better chances for a civilian government, one that is secular, strong, made up of democrats, and able to ensure greater religious freedom in the country."

Until now, in Myanmar there was "freedom of worship, but setting up religious institutions, schools, and hospitals was impossible or at the highly least restricted, requiring years for various permits."

Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
Aung San Suu Kyi’s landslide is the dawn of a new era in Myanmar
Yangon, 27 ethnic groups united in march against the coup
18/02/2021 12:31
Catholic scholar says voters are giving Aung San Suu Kyi a 'second chance'
10/11/2020 13:20
Yangon’s dead and imprisoned climb. A government in exile is about to be born
16/04/2021 13:15
Fresh charges against Aung San Suu Kyi, she now faces 15 years in prison
18/03/2021 10:33


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”