Government and Army Congratulate Aung San Suu Kyi as Myanmar Count Continues
The spokesman for Myanmar’s president has said the government will “obey” the results of the election and work to transfer power peacefully, after offering congratulations to the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for what promises to be a landslide win for her party.
“We will respect and obey the decision of the electorate,” Ye Htut, also the minister of information, said on his Facebook page. “We will work peacefully in the transfer [of power]” he said. “Congratulations … to the chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi and her party for gathering the support of the people.”
Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar’s powerful army chief, went further, congratulating Aung San Suu Kyi for winning a majority of seats.
Although less than 50% of Sunday’s election results have been officially announced, the declarations are the clearest signal yet from the administration that it will support the first credibly elected government in more than half a century.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) party has taken around 90% of seats declared so far, with Aung San Suu Kyi claiming her own constituency on Wednesday.
In the wake of her win, Aung San Suu Kyi has written to Min Aung Hlaing, the president, Thein Sein, and the parliamentary Speaker, Shwe Mann, requesting a meeting to discuss the election and “national reconciliation”, according to the National League for Democracy Facebook page.
Ye Htut posted a photograph of the four leaders on Facebook on Wednesday, a nod of acceptance towards Aung San Suu Kyi’s request. But he said the meeting would take place only after all the election results had been announced.
Aung San Suu Kyi is blocked by the Myanmar constitution from becoming president but said last week that she intended to be “above the president” if her party won sufficient seats. She said on Tuesday that the president would “have no authority” and “will act in accordance with the decisions of the party” – an audacious statement seen as antagonistic towards the military. The placatory tone from the president’s spokesman on Wednesday will calm fears of a backlash.
The meeting, when it takes place, will be the start of what is expected to be months of political negotiations in Myanmar as to how power is shared with the longstanding military elite.
“The citizens have expressed their will in the election,” Aung San Suu Kyi said in her invitation to talks. “I would like to invite you to discuss reconciliation next week at a time of your convenience.”
The government’s Union Election Commission has released results in 10 stages over the three days since polling on Sunday, all of which have shown the NLD beating the incumbent Union Solidarity and Development party (USDP) by wide margins.
Wednesday’s results also revealed the NLD had made gains across diverse areas of the country, despite earlier speculation that many from Myanmar’s 40% ethnic minority populations would vote for smaller parties, hampering the NLD’s chances of a majority.
Richard Horsey, an independent political analyst, said: “The really big surprise in these results wasn’t the drubbing that the USDP got, or the NLD landslide, it was the massive defeat suffered by most ethnic minority parties.”
He said the defeat could blunt the voices of the nation’s minorities. “For a country still emerging from six decades of civil war, it is a big concern if the parliament fails to reflect the diversity of the country.”
There are 168 contested seats in the upper house of parliament and 330 in the lower house, although seven of those lower house seats were cancelled due to fighting with insurgent groups in border areas.
That amounts to a total of 491 seats to be contested in both houses, not including the 25% of seats that are automatically reserved for the army. Therefore, the NLD needs to win 67%, or 329 seats across the two houses, to gain a majority.
Less than half the results have been announced in a painstakingly drawn-out process, with the NLD winning 258 seats across both houses of parliament, the USDP 21 and other parties 23. Aung San Suu Kyi, who won her seat in Kawmhu, Yangon, said on Tuesdaythat her party had won 75% of contested seats. A senior NLD figure later told the Guardian that unofficial party results showed it had won 82% of contested seats.
The gains were so strong that a regional parliamentary candidate for the NLD won against the ruling party’s runner despite having died two days before the election while delivering a campaign speech.
The European Union mission observing the elections said the polls were well run, awith monitoring teams around the country reporting an overwhelmingly positive message about the conduct of the contest.The chief observer Alexander Graf Lambsdorff said international observers around the country had “reported very positively on the voting … with 95% rating the process a ‘good’ or ‘very good’”.
However, while the USDP has been diminished and much of the decades-old establishment shaken by the extent of Aung San Suu Kyi’s victory, the army retains power.
In addition to its guaranteed bloc of parliamentary seats, the commander-in-chief nominates the heads of three powerful and big-budget ministries – interior, defence and border security – and the constitution also gives him the right to take over the government under certain circumstances.