Suu Kyi’s party wins historic majority in Myanmar polls

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party attained a historic majority in Myanmar’s Parliament on Friday, making it possible for them to form the Southeast Asian country’s first truly civilian government in more than half a century. While complete results from last Sunday’s elections will take more time to be tallied, the state election commission announced that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party had won 37 additional seats – pushing it over the threshold of 329 seats needed for a majority in the two-house Parliament.

The party with a combined parliamentary majority is able to select the next president, who can then name a Cabinet and form a new government. The 329 figure represents a majority in the 664-member parliament because voting was not held in seven constituencies due to unrest. The ruling military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has won just 40 seats so far. The handover should take place after the new Parliament meets early next year and votes on a new president, along with two vice-presidents.

The NLD will face a variety of challenges, no least of which is the huge tide of pent-up expectations evidenced by the vote. Its lack of experience in public administration is another big question mark.

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Suu Kyi says Myanmar vote unfair

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Friday that Myanmar’s landmark weekend elections will be neither free nor fair because of widespread irregularities but vowed to continue her candidacy for the sake of the long-repressed nation. Suu Kyi said opposition candidates had been targeted in stone-throwing incidents, campaign posters vandalized and members of her party intimated during the run-up to Sunday’s closely-watched parliamentary by-elections.

During a news conference on the lawn of her crumbling lakeside residence in Yangon, the 66-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate said government officials were involved in some of the irregularities and that they go “beyond what is acceptable for democratic elections.” “Still,” she said, “we are determined to go forward because we think this is what our people want.”

The vote to fill several dozen vacant legislative seats comes after months of surprising reforms carried out by Myanmar’s nominally civilian, postjunta government, including the release of political prisoners, truces with rebel groups and a dramatic easing of media censorship. The poll is crucial test of Myanmar’s commitment to change, and Western nations have held out the possibility of lifting some sanctions if all goes smoothly.

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