NLD looking to repeat 1990 landslide

Partial results released by the Union Election Commission up to 9pm yesterday showed that the NLD had won 289 out of 333 seats announced so far, including those for regional and state assemblies.

The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party plus an “independent” ally were on 27, while six ethnic minority parties won 17 seats between them.

“The times have changed, the people have changed,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest, told the BBC in her first interview since the November 8 vote.

She said the “communications revolution” had also contributed to the victory, in part because it was more difficult to rig the polls. The elections had been “largely free”, she said, a view generally endorsed by domestic and foreign observers.

Thant Myint-U, an adviser to President U Thein Sein, called it a “crushing win for the NLD”.

The president’s men were being decimated across the country. Two major casualties in Magwe Region were former major-general and ex-telecom minister U Thein Tun, and former military advocate general and incumbent President’s Office minister U Soe Maung.

One bright spot for the USDP was a narrow win in Lashio, Shan State, for Vice President U Sai Mauk Kham, thanks largely to advance votes which the NLD initially disputed but then accepted.

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, head of the EU observers mission, told reporters that voters had “turned out in large numbers and calmly cast their votes in a generally well-run process”.

In the crucial contest for control of the national parliament, known as the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, the NLD has so far taken 78 out of 88 seats declared in the lower house, the Pyithu Hluttaw, which has a total of 330 elected seats. Seven will not be filled because the election was cancelled in those areas.

NLD senior member and party spokesperson U Win Htein told The Myanmar Times that the NLD believed it had won 82pc of townships across the country. In 1990 the NLD won 80pc of the seats on a proposed constitutional committee.

Taking into account the 25pc of unelected parliamentary seats allocated to the military, the NLD is on track to have a comfortable absolute majority that would secure its candidates for president and one of the two vice president positions. The military bloc is assured of having the other vice president position.

The combined houses of parliament will vote in February 2016 for a new president, who then appoints a government to take office the next month. The drawn-out transition has political observers worried, noting that the existing parliament – stacked with defeated MPs – is next to convene on November 16 with officials suggesting up to 50 bills will be debated and possibly approved.

The 70-year-old NLD leader is barred by the military-crafted 2008 constitution from serving as president because her sons hold foreign passports. Last week she told a press conference that she would be “above” the president. To the BBC she said she would make the big decisions while a colleague holds the post, joking, “A rose by another name.”

In a sign of that autocratic streak which some party supporters fear could lead to internal discord later, she said 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”.

When asked if this was fair, she said, “I believe in transparency and accountability … It works much better if I’m open about it, if I tell the people.”

Expectations are growing that the military will stick to its word and not reject the NLD landslide as it did in 1990, then accompanied by a brutal crackdown.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing declared on November 8, not for the first time, that the military would respect the “people’s choice”. He cautioned that it was important to accept the results announced by the UEC.

While concerns remain that the military will still attempt to manipulate some results, not even its harshest critics believe a re-run of 1990 is on the cards.

In part this is because the Tatma-daw has built firewalls in the 2008 constitution to defend itself, including a 25pc bloc in parliament that can veto constitutional change and control of three key ministries not answerable to the president. It also exerts significant control over the civil service and boasts an enormous business empire.

Still, the scale of the result has stunned many – not least U Wirathu, an outspoken monk in Mandalay who tried but failed to mobilise a wave of nationalist and Buddhist sentiment against the NLD because of its opposition to four laws to “protect race and religion” that discriminated against women and minorities.

“I never thought that the NLD would win this many townships,” he told The Myanmar Times at Masoeyin monastery. “I expected many parties to enter into the hluttaw. I am very surprised.” He also said he was worried.

Drama in the capital also left former defence minister U Wai Lwin stunned. The ex-general and USDP candidate yesterday sought a partial recount of votes in Pobbathiri, where he was up against U Ye Mon, a poet better known as Maung Tin Thit. But township election commission officials turned down the request.

Despite the avalanche of good news and votes in their party’s favour, NLD officials were still expressing frustration and concerns at the slow release of officially sanctioned results by the UEC.

The UEC, headed by ex-general U Tin Aye, says it is working with full transparency and is releasing results at regular intervals. At a tense press conference held at UEC headquarters in Nay Pyi Taw on November 9, UEC official U Myint Naing was asked for a timeframe for results. “As soon as possible,” came the reply.

Source: Myanmar Times

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