YANGON — Tin Oo is pushing 90, but much like another nonagenarian Southeast Asian politician, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, the one-time commander in chief of the Myanmar army and co-founder of the National League for Democracy shows no sign of flagging. Shoulders back, spine straight, and a booming delivery that makes a microphone superfluous, Tin Oo was phlegmatic about the NLD’s landslide victory in Myanmar’s Nov. 8 election. It was the first openly contested vote since the NLD won the 1990 elections, an outcome ignored by the ruling military. “This is progress for our side,” Tin Oo said, displaying a mastery of understatement, even as election results showed the NLD taking around 80% of the 1,150 contested seats. But for Nyan Win, another veteran NLD leader, the electoral sweep prompted some poignant reflection. “We are thinking about all the prisoners, all who worked for the NLD, all who suffered,” Nyan Win said. “We hope this election is vindication of all the years of struggle.”
YANGON — For years, the political party was banned and its leading members jailed or placed under house arrest. But in an historic, once-unthinkable turnaround, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy will be able to form a single-party government early next year in Myanmar, formerly one of the world’s most durable military dictatorships. After a long, frustrating wait for the party, the latest set of results announced at noon on Nov. 12 by the country’s Union Election Commission showed the NLD had gained the two-thirds majority it needed to govern alone, with the party taking 348 national parliament seats, 19 more than it needed for a so-called “super majority.” The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party had won a mere 40 national parliament seats. Even as it waited for confirmation of its ruling party status, the NLD has been “moving on,” U Win Htein, a close aide to Suu Kyi and a retiring NLD parliamentarian, told the Nikkei Asian Review.
YANGON — With the National League for Democracy looking likely to gain enough seats in Myanmar’s Nov. 8 poll to form a government early next year, party leader Aung San Suu Kyi has signaled her intent to meet soon with President Thein Sein, military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann. Even as vote counting continued on Wednesday, Suu Kyi requested the meeting, clearly in order to discuss the handover of power to a government that she has indicated she will run. “We cannot say exactly when they will meet as the counting process is still going at the UEC [the government’s Union Election Commission],” Zaw Htay, a presidential aide, told the Nikkei Asian Review. “Perhaps it will be next week,” Zaw Htay added. Letters from Suu Kyi to each of the three leaders requesting meetings to discuss “national reconciliation,” dated Nov. 10, were posted on the NLD Facebook page on the morning of Nov. 11. Their publication prompted swift replies — also on Facebook — from Ye Htut, the president’s spokesman, and from Shwe Mann.
Simon Roughneen, correspondent with the Nikkei Asian Review, reports on the first openly contested elections in 25 years.
YANGON – Party elder Tin Oo, a former general-turned-democrat and a confidante of Suu Kyi, told a crowd of several thousand jubilant supporters outside the party’s Yangon headquarters on Sunday night that the NLD could not call the overall result. He drew loud roars, however, when he thundered: “All I can say is that the NLD is in a very good position.” On the perpetually traffic-clogged road outside the NLD office, several thousand red-clad supporters danced and cheered into the night as a giant screen relayed images of vote-counting over the state-run TV channel. Even so, some supporters expressed disappointment that “the Lady,” as Suu Kyi is known, did not address the gathering as anticipated. Sein Ho, a father of four living in Yangon’s Ahlone district, said he had brought his family to the NLD headquarters in the expectation of news that the party had won the election and would form a government. “We hope this party can make the country better,” Sein Ho said. “We think the NLD can win.
YANGON – As polls closed, a thunderstorm hit Yangon — which did little to dampen the spirits of thousands of supporters who had rallied outside the NLD’s headquarters in Bahan township in the hope of glimpsing Suu Kyi. But earlier in the day, under a hot morning sun near the Chinatown district, Nilar Tun, a recent medicine graduate, stood checking voting rules outside her polling station before casting her ballot. “I just want to check up on the rules again, but I saw on the television already,” said Nilar Tun, who would not say who she was voting for. “What I will say is that many people want change,” she noted.
YANGON – Speaking to an estimated 100,000 red-clad supporters gathered in a field beside Yangon’s Thuwanna Pagoda on Nov. 1, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi appeared ebullient, exhorting the cheering crowd to ditch the current military-backed government. “I want to tell you again to vote for us if you want to see real changes in the country,” Suu Kyi said, her call drawing rapturous acclaim from the crowd. On Friday, the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, dominated by former military men and civil servants, gathered at best 10,000 supporters in the same field, where a mix of crooners and pop acts tried to rev up the crowd up ahead of a keynote speech by Nanda Kyaw Swa, a member of the USDP’s central committee. Not content with telling the crowd that the USDP is supremely confident of holding on to power, Nanda Kyaw Swa added some extra bravado: “Let me tell you in advance that we have won.”
YANGON — Aung San Suu Kyi is confident that her National League for Democracy can win her country’s election on Sunday, an outcome that would, she hopes, allow her to run a government from behind the scenes despite a constitutional ban on her becoming president. “I will be above the president,” Suu Kyi said. Zaw Htay, an official at the office of President Thein Sein, said Suu Kyi’s plans would, if implemented, contravene the constitution. “The president is the supreme head of the country, of the people,” Zaw Htay told the Nikkei Asian Review.
YANGON — Myanmar’s Nov. 8 election is likely to be dominated by the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party and the opposition National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi. But about 90 other parties are also vying to win seats in the country’s first free and fair election in a quarter century. Confronted with the wealth, reach and popularity of the big two, this array of smaller parties faces a struggle to win seats — a challenge compounded by Myanmar’s first-past-the-post electoral system, a legacy of colonial rule. “The two big parties are overwhelming the smaller parties,” said Khin Maung Kyi, an official with the United Democratic Party. “They can use so many finances,” he added, pointing to the gaping disparity in resources between his party, which is fielding a mere 41 candidates in the election, and the 1,000-plus being fielded by both the NLD and USDP.
THANDWE, Rakhine State — Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi took her election campaign over the weekend to the troubled western state of Rakhine, where she urged citizens to avoid religious discrimination and not be swayed by rhetoric aimed at stirring up Buddhist-Muslim tensions in the divided region. “Hatred and fear is of no benefit to Myanmar,” Suu Kyi told a crowd of around 2,000 in the coastal town of Thandwe on Oct. 17. Despite efforts by Buddhist hardliners to depict her party as being over-friendly toward Muslims, Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy is expected to win more seats than any other party in the Nov. 8 election. However, the NLD is thought unlikely to have much success in Rakhine State, also known as Arakan, where the ethnically-based Arakan National Party is expected to perform well among the state’s estimated 2 million Rakhine Buddhists who make up about two-thirds of the local population.