The Myanmar Union Election Commission has certified that the National League for Democracy, the party of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has secured 40 of the open 45 seats in the Paliament in Sunday’s by-election. Mme. Suu Kyi will be taking a seat in the Parliament herself, representing the Kawhmu district south of Yangon.
The past year has seen the military junta that has controlled the country for decades free hundred of political prisoners, hold talks with ethnic minority leaders, relax media censorship, allow trade unions and make moves toward expanding its economic range away from China.
Mme. Suu Kyi told her supporters at the NLD’s headquarters in Yangon, “It is not so much our triumph as a triumph of the peole who have decided that they must be involved in the political process of this country. We hope that this will be the beginning of a new era, when there will be more emphasis on the role of the people in the everyday politics of our country. We hope that all other parties that took part in the elections will be in a position to cooperate with us to create a genuinely democratic atmosphere.”
Two of the elections were for regional assemblies. Three were in the 224-seat upper house, the Amyotha Hluttaw, where 168 seats are elected. Thirty-five are in the lower house, the Pyithu Hluttaw, which has 330 elected seats and 110 appointed. The NLD will have only 1% of the upper house and 8% of the lower. The military’s party, the USDP, holds majorities in both houses.
The NLD was banned for decades, and then boycotted the last round of parliamentary elections until the military leadership had made significant reforms. Myanmar appears to be moving ahead with those reforms at last. The years in house arrest have cost Mme. Suu Kyi greatly. She was unable to travel to be with her dying husband. Her own health has suffered. In the past few weeks she has appeared very frail for her 66 years. Observers believe that not only is Myanmar reforming, but Mme. Suu Kyi has changed, becoming more pragmatic and politically astute, less ideologically purist. If so, she has learned that compromise is sometimes the best way to achieve one’s goals.