YANGON – President Thein Sein head of Myanmar’s ruling party has been defeated in the country’s general election on Monday, as the opposition led by democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi appeared on course for a landslide victory that would ensure it can form the next government.
“We lost,” Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) acting chairman Htay Oo told Reuters in an interview a day after the Southeast Asian country’s first free nationwide election in a quarter of a century.
The election commission later began announcing constituency-by-constituency results from Sunday’s poll. All of the first 12 announced were won by Suu Kyi’s National League of Democracy (NLD).
The NLD said its own tally of results from polling stations around the country showed it on track to win more than 70 percent of the seats being contested in parliament, more than the two-thirds it needs to form Myanmar’s first democratically elected government since the early 1960s.
“They must accept the results, even though they don’t want to,” NLD spokesman Win Htein told Reuters, adding that in the highly populated central region the Nobel peace laureate’s party looked set to win more than 90 percent of seats.
Earlier a smiling Suu Kyi appeared on the balcony of the NLD’s headquarters in Yangon and in a brief address urged supporters to be patient and wait for the official results.
The election was a landmark in the country’s unsteady journey to democracy from the military dictatorship that made it a pariah state for so long. It is also a moment that Suu Kyi will relish after spending years under house arrest.
Although the election appears to have dealt a decisive defeat to the USDP, a period of uncertainty still looms over the country because it is not clear how Suu Kyi will share power with the still-dominant military.
The military-drafted constitution guarantees one-quarter of parliament’s seats to unelected members of the armed forces.
Even if the NLD gets the majority it needs, Suu Kyi is barred from taking the presidency herself under the constitution written by the junta to preserve its power. Suu Kyi has said she would be the power behind the new president regardless of a charter she has derided as “very silly”.
The military will, however, remain a dominant force. It is guaranteed key ministerial positions, the constitution gives it the right to take over government under certain circumstances, and it also has a grip on the economy through holding companies.
Incomplete vote counts showed some of the most powerful politicians of the USDP trailing in their bids for parliamentary seats, indicating a heavy loss for the party created by the former junta and led by retired military officers.
Among the losers was USDP chief Htay Oo, who told Reuters from the rural delta heartlands that are a bastion of support for his party he was “surprised” by his own defeat.