Accessibility links

Burma's Democracy Leader Hopes Election Win Brings New Era

  • Daniel Schearf

Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi looks on from behind the gates of the National League for Democracy (NLD) office as supporters and reporters gather, in Yangon, April 2, 2012.

Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi looks on from behind the gates of the National League for Democracy (NLD) office as supporters and reporters gather, in Yangon, April 2, 2012.

Burma's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she hopes her and her party's win in Sunday's election ushers in a new era in Burma. Although she and her National League for Democracy will hold only a fraction of power in parliament, they are expected to be an active opposition to the military-backed government.

Hundreds of supporters and media gathered outside Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy headquarters Monday morning to hear her give a brief victory speech.

The party announced Sunday that she and her fellow NLD candidates swept Burma's by-election, winning almost all of the 45 seats up for grabs.

If confirmed, the results would be a public rebuke of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which holds an overwhelming majority of parliament seats.

The Nobel Prize winner pledges that when she and her party enter government after more than two decades in political exile, they will cooperate with all those willing to work for national reconciliation.

Aung San Suu Kyi called Sunday’s vote a hopeful sign for democracy and reconciliation in Burma.

"We hope that this will be the beginning of a new era where there will be more emphasis on the rule of the people in the everyday politics of our country,” she said.

Aung San Suu Kyi said the NLD, once in parliament, would continue to push for the rule of law, an end to all ethnic conflicts, and amendments to the constitution.

Amending the military-drafted constitution will be a challenge for the NLD. Even if it wins all of the seats in Sunday's election it is still only about 7 percent of the several hundred filled by mainly with the military and its supporters.

Those lawmakers have little incentive to support constitutional amendments. The current constitution guarantees continued military dominance in government, reserving it a quarter of all seats in parliament.

Suzanne DiMaggio, vice president of Global Policy Programs at the Asia Society, says despite the NLD's uphill challenge in parliament, the victory is still relevant.

“In particular now, we have at least the beginning of opposition voices within the parliament - credible opposition voices - and I think this is the beginning of something that will only grow,” she said.

DiMaggio says the election results show it is time for the United States to consider lifting economic sanctions against Burma.

The U.S. and the European Union, among others, restrict trade with Burma because of its human rights record. The EU trade commissioner on Monday said if the election proves to be free and fair the bloc would consider lifting sanctions at meetings in Brussels on April 21.

The NLD on Friday said it did not expect the election to be free and fair.

Aung San Suu Kyi said the NLD would publicize all irregularities that took place in order to ensure they are not overlooked. The NLD pointed out names of dead people on voter registration lists as well as multiple voters using the same registration number.

Some voters also complained of wax on voter ballots that did not allow them to be marked properly.

War Thein Kha village in Kawtmu township is Aung San Suu Kyi's constituency.

Ethnic Karen Minorities in the Kawhmu Township, War Thein Kha Village by Daniel Schearf

The poor and remote village was thrust into the spotlight when Burma's most famous prisoner of conscience chose here to register her household.

Nan Myat Myat Thu Win, 23, and her family run a small shop next to the house. She says she hopes Aung San Suu Kyi can help the village's unemployed but she acknowledges even with the election win the NLD would hold little power.

She says, “at least she can present problems such as poverty to parliament. Whether they are solved or not depends on the government.”

Everyone in War Thein Kha who spoke with VOA counted themselves as Aung San Suu Kyi supporters.

Ninety-five-year-old Daw Aye has lived in the village her whole life. She says she loves Aung San Suu Kyi and would never vote for the military-backed USDP.

“I don't like them [USDP] so I won't vote for them,” she said. “They have been ruling for a long time. So, it should be Aung San Suu Kyi's time.”

The official election results are not expected for a few days.

The current situation of Burma's ethnic minorities

Loading...

Show comments

XS
SM
MD
LG