Opposition Wins Outright Majority in Myanmar Election


2015-11-13
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myanmar-nld-win-tshirt-nov-2015-1000.jpg A vendor displays shirts marked with the slogan 'We Won NLD,' and bearing the portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi, for sale in Yangon, Nov. 13, 2015.
AFP

Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party has swept Myanmar’s general election, according to officials, securing a majority in the country’s parliament and earning the right to form its own government.

The NLD has won 247 seats in the Union Parliament’s lower house and 131 in the upper house for a total of 378, the Union Election Commission (UEC) said Friday, surpassing the “magic number” of 329 needed for an outright majority in the legislature, regardless of unreported results from the Nov. 8 polls.

The Nobel laureate’s party had hoped to capture at least two-thirds of the 440 seats in the lower house and 224 seats in the upper house in order to form a government. Under the constitution, drafted by the former junta regime in 2008, 25 percent of seats in both houses are reserved for military appointees.

More than 80 percent of contested seats have been declared by the UEC and results continue to trickle in from Myanmar’s more remote border regions. The final count is not expected for several days.

Aung San Suu Kyi preempted victory Wednesday by calling for “national reconciliation” talks with President Thein Sein, military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing and speaker of the lower house Shwe Mann—all of whom have said they will respect the outcome of the vote and work with the new government.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win told RFA’s Myanmar Service Friday that Aung San Suu Kyi will discuss a power sharing arrangement with the three officials, as well as “the future of the country,” though he said there was no hard agenda for the meeting. He was unable to confirm when the talks would take place.

Nyan Win said the NLD would use the meeting to get a better sense of “how to build a new government,” adding that the party also plans to tap “intellectuals” to lead its ministries and will begin to hammer out “laws to develop the country” after forming its administration.

He dismissed concerns that the legislature could become less democratic due to an overwhelming majority of incoming NLD lawmakers, saying the party “will not place any restrictions on parliament” and that “every MP will have a right to make their voice heard.”

While the NLD will control the majority in the legislature, a “lame duck” parliamentary session—consisting of pre-election lawmakers—is set to begin next week and will last until the end of January. While most of the members of parliament lost their seats in the election, the session will have full power to pass legislation.

Once the “lame duck” session has concluded, the new NLD-dominated parliament will gather and choose a new speaker, two vice-presidents and a president. Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from seeking the presidency under the current military-drafted constitution, because her former husband and two sons are foreign nationals.

International response

The international community has welcomed what has widely been viewed as the first free elections in the country in a quarter decade.

Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government ended five decades of military rule in the country in 2011 when it took power following general elections a year earlier that the NLD boycotted amid concerns they were neither free nor fair.

The NLD had swept the previous election in 1990, but the then-ruling junta ignored the results and placed Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for more than a decade.

In a statement issued late on Thursday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated the people of Myanmar on their successful election, calling the vote a significant achievement in the country’s democratic transition.

Ban acknowledged the “courage and vision” of Thein Sein, whose quasi-civilian government he said had led Myanmar to Sunday’s election through reforms it implemented since coming to power.

He also congratulated Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD for their “landmark performance” at the polls and praised the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) for its “dignified acceptance of the verdict of the people.”

Reported by Win Naung Toe and Thinn Thiri for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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