BANGKOK - Myanmar’s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) has captured an absolute majority of the parliamentary seats, giving it a landslide victory over the government and military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), official returns released Friday by the Union Election Commission showed. That will allow the NLD to overcome the military’s veto in the bicameral 664-seat legislature, known as the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, which selects the president.
Myanmar’s military and the largest parties in the parliament will nominate candidates for president in February. The top vote-getter will be president, while the two runners-up will be vice presidents.
Aung San Suu Kyi, under a clause implemented into the constitution by the then-ruling military junta, is barred from becoming president because her sons are citizens of a foreign country, as was her late husband (who are both British).
The NLD leader had earlier said if her party is victorious she will be the one telling the newly selected president what to do.
The White House on Thursday, while congratulating both President Thein Sen and the NLD leader on Myanmar’s “historic elections” said the country needed to take several more democratic steps, including changing the constitution so Aung San Suu Kyi could possibly become president.
"Even with this election, 25 percent of the seats in the parliament are reserved for the military," White House foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes said Thursday. "We have consistently said over the course of the last several years that a full transition to domestic civilian rule in Burma would require a process of constitutional reform."
'Only the first step'
Aung San Suu Kyi, in a Thursday interview with Radio Free Asia’s Myanmar Service, cautioned that the electoral process is “not finished yet” and cautioned her supporters to “control themselves” and refrain from reacting to any provocation in the coming weeks and months.
After forming a new government, she said, the NLD will lay out a “clear and precise” timeline for reforms.
“I can see that the goal people wanted is still far ahead and [the election] is only the first step,” the NLD leader said.
The NLD has captured 364 seats in both houses of parliament -- an astonishing 80 percent of the races called -- while the USDP trailed badly, winning only 40 seats. Smaller parties, including those of regional or ethnic-based groups, and independents have taken 48 seats collectively.
More than 30 million people cast votes in Sunday's election, which international observers mostly praised as successful, while raising concerns over the disenfranchisement of Muslims and other minorities and about the lack of transparency in the counting of advance ballots.
This was the first election in Myanmar since the military junta established a quasi-civilian government in 2011 after nearly 50 years in power, and one year after Aung San Suu Kyi's nearly two-decade-long house detention ended and a ban on her NLD party was lifted.