Saturday 24 August 2019

Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party wins historic majority in Burma

Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party passed the threshold it needed of 329 seats for a majority in the 664-member parliament (AP)
Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party passed the threshold it needed of 329 seats for a majority in the 664-member parliament (AP)

Burma's election panel has released results showing that Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party has secured a historic majority in the country's parliament.

With the tally still being counted, the panel said today that Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party has won 15 more seats, pushing it over the threshold it needed of 329 seats for a majority in the 664-member, two-house parliament.

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 is still being counted and final results are not expected for several days.

But the incoming results confirmed a landslide win for the opposition and a resounding rejection of military rule in Burma. The country has been under military control for half a century.

Earlier US president Barack Obama congratulated Ms Suu Kyi for the success of her opposition party in Myanmar's historic elections.

Mr Obama also called President Thein Sein to congratulate Burma on its success in conducting the election and the importance of respecting the outcome.

The former general has led Burma's military-backed government for five years.

Ms Suu Kyi's party had been widely expected to win, but few anticipated a landslide of such dramatic proportions.

Elections were not held in seven constituencies, meaning a simple majority could be reached at 329 seats.

The NLD has officially won 238 seats in the lower house - which means it now will have the power to pass bills - and 110 in the upper house, for a total of 348.

In comparison, the ruling pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Party has won 40 seats, according to the latest results.

The military automatically receives 25% of the seats in each house under the constitution.

While the army has not conceded defeat for the ruling USDP party, it has acknowledged the massive success of the NLD in the election, and pledged it will respect the final results.

Those results seem virtually certain to allow the opposition to take over the government.

The office of army commander Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said the military will hold talks with Ms Suu Kyi after the election results are complete.

Ms Suu Kyi issued an invitation on Wednesday for a meeting with the commander, along with Mr Sein and House Speaker Shwe Mann.

While an NLD majority assures it of being able to elect the president, Ms Suu Kyi remains barred from the highest office by a constitutional provision inserted by the military before it transferred power to Mr Sein's quasi-civilian government in 2011.

Ms Suu Kyi has declared, however, that she will become the country's de facto leader, acting "above the president" if her party forms the next government, and that the new president will be a figurehead.

The military in Burma - which is also known as Myanmar - took power in a 1962 coup and brutally suppressed several pro-democracy uprisings during its rule.

It gave way to Mr Sein's nominally civilian elected government in 2011 but with strings attached, including installing retired senior officers in the ruling party to fill cabinet posts.

It gave itself key powers in the constitution, including control of several powerful ministries and a quarter of the seats in both houses of parliament.

In a state of emergency, a special military-led body can even assume state powers. Another provision bars Ms Suu Kyi from the presidency because her sons hold foreign citizenship.

While Burma's people voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to remove the military-backed ruling party from power, it is clear that the army's involvement in politics will not end, and the NLD will need to convince it to co-operate

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