Myanmar’s opposition claimed a historic victory on Sunday for pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in her bid for a seat in parliament, sparking scenes of jubilation among crowds of supporters.
Hundreds of people clapped and cheered as a giant screen outside her National League for Democracy (NLD) party headquarters in Yangon announced the Nobel Peace Prize winner had won a parliamentary seat for the first time.
Some people wept with joy at the news, which, if confirmed, would mark a stunning turnaround for the former political prisoner, who was locked up by the former junta for most of the past 22 years."We have been waiting for this day for a long time. I’m so happy," said NLD supporter Kalyar, who goes by one name.
Suu Kyi won an estimated 99% of the votes in Kawhmu constituency, according to NLD official Soe Win, based on the party’s own tally. There was no independent confirmation and official results were expected within a week.
The party also claimed it was on course to win all 44 seats it contested in the by-elections, in which a total of 45 seats were at stake — not enough to threaten the army-backed ruling party’s huge majority.
Observers believe Myanmar’s new reform-minded quasi-civilian government wanted Suu Kyi to win a place in parliament to burnish its reform credentials and smooth the way for an easing of Western sanctions.
Many of her supporters had earlier waited for hours in searing heat to catch a glimpse of the 66-year-old Suu Kyi, who was running for political office for the first time.
Her main rival in the rural Kawhmu constituency, two hours’ drive from Yangon, was a former military doctor with the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party. The polls were also marred somewhat by allegations of ballot-paper irregularities, notably that wax had been put over the check box for the NLD that could be rubbed off later to cancel the vote. It was not immediately clear how widespread irregularities were.
“This is happening around the country,” NLD spokesman Nyan Win told AFP. “I have sent a complaint letter to the union election commission.”
In the run-up to the eagerly awaited vote, the party decried alleged intimidation of candidates and other irregularities.
Suu Kyi said on Friday that the poll could not be considered “a genuinely free and fair election” but stopped short of announcing a boycott.
A 2010 general election, won by the military’s political proxies, was plagued by complaints of cheating and the exclusion of Suu Kyi, who was released from seven straight years of house arrest shortly afterwards.Facts about Myanmar | Prisoner turned politician| Suu Kyi set for history | Suu Kyi poised to win