YANGON, MYANMAR —
As official returns from the Myanmar election commission slowly trickle out showing the opposition heading to a landslide victory, international observers released their assessment of Sunday's polling process.
While observers found Myanmar’s first nationally competitive election in a quarter-century peaceful and the high voter turnout encouraging, they said they view democracy in the country as still very much a work in progress.
“The process went better than many expected beforehand. It is also true however that more is needed, more reforms are needed to ensure that truly genuine elections can take place in the future," European Union chief observer Alexander Lamsdorff said Tuesday.
One of the most high-profile international observers, former Ireland President Mary Robinson, told VOA she will not characterize the election as “free and fair.”
“I wouldn’t tend to use that expression anyway if you’ve got 25 percent of both houses (of parliament) to the military, problems with the constitution, people excluded because they’re Muslim or the Rohingya. And also because they’re in situations of conflict," Robinson said.
Supporters of Myanmar's pro-democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi gather outside National League for Democracy headquarters (NLD) in Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 9, 2015.
International observers said they found it encouraging that losing candidates of the governing party are accepting defeat, but added the overall verdict on the electoral process will come from the people.
“I think it was a success because we could choose the leadership we wanted – Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy," said first-time voter Khin Zar Chi Aung, 22, a university student.
“All could participate under the election commission’s rules. Every citizen holding a national ID card could vote if their name was on the rolls. But those who didn’t have the card were not eligible to vote," Dahmma Par La, a Buddhist monk, said.
Among opposition supporters there is cautious optimism now that the military generals will not repeat what they did after the 1990 election: preventing the victorious Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy from taking power.