Suu Kyi Democracy party tipped for landslide election win in Burma
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Burma’s ruling party acting chairman on Monday conceded defeat in the southeast Asian country’s general elections, repeating previous statements that he would accept the results of the historic poll.
Preliminary reports from around the country, also known as Myanmar, indicated a wide margin of victory for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) in the first free national election in 25 years.
The drip feed of poll results handed the NLD 49 of the first 54 lower house seats announced so far, while the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) braced for a rout after taking just three of the declared seats, with many party heavweights losing.
A senior member of the ruling party told AFP on Tuesday they had “lost completely” to Suu Kyi’s opposition.
“Our USDP lost completely. The NLD has won,” party member Kyi Win said from the capital, Naypyidaw.
“This is the fate of our country. Let them (the NLD) work. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has to take responsibility now... we congratulate them anyway.”
Speaking to Reuters, USDP leader Htay Oo, a close ally of President Thein Sein, said "we do accept the results without any reservations. We have to find out the reason why we lost."
NLD spokesman Win Htein said the party had claimed more than 80 percent of the general election ballots tallied in Burma’s densely populated central regions.
Earlier, Suu Kyi hinted that the NLD was poised for a landslide victory, telling supporters gathered at the party’s headquarters "I think you all have the idea of the results”, while urging them not to provoke losing rivals.
She herself is barred from becoming president, but said before the ballot she would be “above the president” if her party emerged victorious.
A constitutional amendment bars anyone with a foreign spouse or child from holding those positions. Suu Kyi's two sons are British, as was her late husband.
On Sunday around 30 million eligible Burmese voters were tasked with picking from thousands of candidates standing for parliament and regional assemblies.
Although 91 parties fielded candidates, the main contest was between the NLD and the ruling USDP, which is made up largely of former junta members.
‘Far from perfect’
The election, though, was not without problems. Observers criticized the government for keeping about 500,000 eligible voters from the country's 1.3 million-strong Rohingya Muslim minority from voting.
The government considers them foreigners, though many have lived in Myanmar for generations. Neither the NLD nor the USDP fielded a Muslim candidate.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday the poll was an important step forward in the path to democracy, but added it was "far from perfect".
Important impediments remain to a fully democratic civilian government, Kerry said in a statement, including the reservation of a large number of unelected seats for the military.
The constitution reserves 25 percent of parliamentary seats for the military, and was rewritten to keep Suu Kyi - overwhelmingly the country's most popular politician - from the presidency.
Parliament picks president
The junta, which seized power in a 1962 coup, annulled the results when Suu Kyi's party won a sweeping victory in 1990 elections. A new vote was held in 2010, but the opposition boycotted it saying the election laws were unfair.
The USDP won by default and took office in 2011 under President Thein Sein, a former general who began political and economic reforms to end the country’s isolation and jump-start its economy.
After the elections, the new members of parliament and the military appointees will propose three candidates, and then elect one as president. The other two will become vice presidents.
The NLD needs an overwhelming win to take the presidency because of the seats reserved for the military, all of which now go to the USDP.
Even if the NLD is victorious, the military will retain significant power. It is guaranteed key ministerial positions, the constitution gives it the right to take over the government under certain circumstances, and it also has a grip on the economy through holding companies.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)