Monday 16 September 2019

Burma president congratulates Aung San Suu Kyi on poll victory

Aung San Suu Kyi has requested meetings with Burma's military chief, the president and the chairman of parliament (AP)
Aung San Suu Kyi has requested meetings with Burma's military chief, the president and the chairman of parliament (AP)

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party said Burma's president has sent a message promising to "pursue a peaceful transfer" of power following its expected victory in parliamentary elections.

The National League for Democracy said in a statement that it had received a message from Information Minister Ye Htut on behalf of President Thein Sein.

In it, the president is quoted as saying: "In accordance with the Union Election Commission's election results announcement, I would like to congratulate you, the NLD, for leading the race for parliamentary seats."

The message also said the government would pursue a peaceful transfer of power "in accordance with the legislated timeline".

Ye Htut said earlier on Wednesday that the government agreed to Ms Suu Kyi's proposal for a meeting to discuss national reconciliation. He said it would take place after the Election Commission has completed its duties.

Ms Suu Kyi won her parliamentary seat, part of a near total victory for her party.

The result will give the country its first government in decades that is not under the military's sway, and Ms Suu Kyi has requested meetings with Burma's military chief, the president and the chairman of parliament.

She wants to see them next week, apparently to discuss the formation of the new government following her party's massive electoral victory.

In similar letters to the three officials, she said it is "very crucial that the government implements, for the pride of the country and the peaceful desire of people" the results of Saturday's elections.

She said "based on the national reconciliation, we would want to meet" and have discussions next week

Ms Suu Kyi, however, will not become the president because of a constitutional hurdle inserted by the junta when it transferred power in 2011 to a quasi-civilian government.

The military, which took power in a 1962 coup and brutally suppressed several pro-democracy uprisings during its rule, gave way to a nominally civilian elected government - with strings attached.

The army installed retired senior officers in the ruling party to fill Cabinet posts and granted itself constitutional powers, including control of powerful ministries and a quarter of seats in the 664-member two-chamber 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.

For now, though, the focus is on the stunning, if not yet official, victory of her National League for Democracy party over the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party.

The Union Election Commission today announced 63 more results for Parliament's lower house, which included Ms Suu Kyi's name as the victor from Kawhmu, which is part of Yangon state.

It said she won 54,676 votes without giving more details of how many the losing ruling party candidate won or how many eligible voters were in the constituency.

Of the remaining 60 seats, the NLD won 56 seats, and USDP won three.

That brings to 135 the number of seats won by NLD out of the 151 lower house seats announced so far. For the upper house, the NLD has won 29 out of 33 announced.

NLD co-founder Tin Oo said the party expects win about 80% of the votes - putting it on a par with the party's 1990 landslide that the military annulled.

The delay in announcing official returns has raised concern, with NLD spokesman Win Htein telling reporters that the election commission has been "delaying intentionally because maybe they want to play a trick or something".

Ms Suu Kyi told the BBC she does not expect the army to steal away her party's election victory, as it did in 1990.

"They've been saying repeatedly they'll respect the will of the people and that they will implement the results of the election," she said.

Burma's citizens are now politically more aware, and new forms of communications serve a watchdog function, she said.

If the NLD secures a two-thirds majority of the Parliamentary seats at stake - a likely scenario now - it would gain control over the executive posts under Burma's complicated system.

The military and the largest parties in the upper house and the lower house will each nominate a candidate for president.

After January 31, all 664 legislators will cast ballots and the top vote-getter will become president, while the other two will be vice presidents.

Although she is barred by the constitution from becoming president, Ms Suu Kyi recently declared that she will be the country's de facto leader, acting "above the president", if her party forms the next government.

PA Media

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