Burma’s officials have said Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, has won a majority in the country’s historic general election.The win marks the end of military backed rule in the country.The election, the first Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party has contested since 1990, saw a huge turnout that yielded more than 80 per cent of seats to the NLD that the party needed to control parliament and choose the president.The party was awarded 21 further lower house seats by the Union Election Commission, taking its overall parliamentary tally to 348, 19 more than the 329 needed for an absolute majority.A 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 tally from Sunday’s vote was no doubt the results many in the country wanted to see confirming a landslide win for the opposition and a resounding rejection of military rule in Myanmar.The triumph of the charismatic Nobel peace prize laureate sweeps out an old guard of former generals that has run Myanmar, also known as Burma, since Thein Sein ushered in a raft of democratic and economic reforms four years ago.The country has been under military control for half a century. While the election and two months of campaigning in the run-up were largely peaceful, global leaders stressed that a large number of people, estimated by some rights activists at around 4 million were unable to cast their ballots.
Myanmar’s government has denied Rohingya Muslims citizenship, and hundreds died in clashes between Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in 2012. Some 140,000 Rohingya live in squalid camps, while thousands more have fled by boat, leading to a regional migration crisis.Immediately after the announcement, the international community welcomed the election results, with US president Barack Obama calling both Ms Suu Kyi and the president Thein Sein to offer his congratulations.Mr Obama has visited the country twice in the last four years.UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon congratulated Ms Suu Kyi for her election win and hailed the “courage and vision” of Mr Sein for “leadership in the reform process.” Before the election, the US hinted it could rollback more sanctions in reward for a successful and peaceful election. However, Suu Kyi cannot become leader, as she is barred by constitutional law.Ms Suu Kyi has already publicly called for “national reconciliation talks” with president Thein Sein and army chief Min Aung Hlaing.Mr Sein’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, which is made up of former military cadres, no doubt it has been handed a defeat during the election.The president is a former general who swapped his uniform for civilian clothes to lead the government in 2011, has won praise for steering the reforms that culminated in Sunday’s peaceful poll.Suu Kyi has been criticized for not speaking out against abuses faced by the Muslim minority.
The Rohingya situation will be one of the most contentious issues the new government will face.With her victory confirmed, the attention will shift to NLD’s presidential candidate and its plans for government. Myanmar’s president runs the executive, with the exception of the powerful ministries of interior, defence and border security, which are controlled by the military.Under the indirect electoral system, the upper house, lower house, and military bloc in parliament each put forward a presidential candidate. The combined houses then vote on the three candidates, who do not have to be elected members of parliament.The winner becomes president and forms a government, while the losers become vice presidents with largely ceremonial responsibilities.With the latest results from the election commission, Suu Kyi’s majority in the lower house is big enough to give the NLD an overall majority in the joint chambers.The vote for the presidency will take place after the new members take their seats in both houses in February. The president will assume power by the end of March.Suu Kyi is barred from becoming president by the junta-drafted constitution because her children are foreign nationals. She has become increasingly defiant on the presidential clause as the scale of her victory has become apparent, making it clear she will run the country regardless of who the NLD elects as president.