YANGON: Myanmar’s military-backed government vowed Wednesday to respect the country’s election result despite staring at a poll wipeout, as opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi called for talks with the president and the powerful army chief.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party is on the brink of a majority after it took over 85 per cent of the seats declared so far.
Although poll officials are yet to announce the NLD as winners, Myanmar’s balance of power, dominated for half a century by the army and its allies, appears poised to be redrawn.
But Suu Kyi’s supporters remain anxious at how the army and its allies will respond to its mauling, with memories still keen of the 1990 election — won by the NLD but then swatted away by the junta.
In the first official reaction by the army-backed ruling party, Information Minister Ye Htut congratulated the NLD on its gains so far and vowed to “respect and obey the decision of the electorate”.
“We will work peacefully in the transfer” of responsibilities to the winning party, he said in a letter posted on Facebook, adding talks with Suu Kyi could be held after the official result is announced.
By nightfall the NLD had scooped up 256 seats, 73 shy of an outright majority — but it was almost certain to smash through that marker.
Earlier, Suu Kyi sent letters to President Thein Sein, Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing as well as influential parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann, calling for “national reconciliation” talks next week.
“Citizens have expressed their will in the election,” she said of the NLD’s blitz of the ruling party, again in a letter circulated on Facebook in a country which has embraced social media since it began opening up in 2011.
The swift move to reach out to the army shows willingness to work with her former captors — who kept her under house arrest for 15 years — to cut through Myanmar’s tangled politics.
Analysts say difficult months lie ahead, with the army still in charge of key levers of power, protected by a constitution gifting it 25 percent of all parliamentary seats as well as key security posts.
The document also blocks the 70-year-old Suu Kyi from becoming president despite her position as the democracy movement’s magnetic force.
The NLD needs 67 per cent of the contested seats to form a majority. But a bigger win will carry greater clout inside the new parliament.
The democracy figurehead, who retained her seat in Kawhmu constituency, has vowed to rule from “above the president”, indicating she will use a proxy to sidestep the bar on her taking the top office.
Parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann, a former high ranking general, had been tipped as a compromise candidate for the presidency — although his star has waned inside the USDP before he too lost his seat.
Sunday’s election has left the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in tatters, taking just a handful of seats so far, with several party heavyweights bundled out of their constituencies by voters.
Election authorities have said it could take another 10 days, or more, to announce a winner.
‘Mother Suu’, as she is affectionately known, has said a democratic government would not seek to punish historic abuses by the military, but a massive popular mandate may prod them to sit down with their chief antagonist.
Stacked with former military men, the USDP has led a quasi-civilian government since 2011.
The party says it has guided the country through the major economic and social reforms that led to Sunday’s election, which is believed to have seen a massive 80 percent voter turnout.
Its critics condemn it as a stooge of the army, which ruled as a junta for five decades, driving the country into penury and jailing opponents.