Myanmar leader vows smooth transition of power

Myanmar President Thein Sein (above) speaking at a meeting of nearly 90 political parties in Yangon yesterday. The former junta general appeared sanguine about the resounding defeat of his army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which wil
Myanmar President Thein Sein speaking at a meeting of nearly 90 political parties in Yangon yesterday. The former junta general appeared sanguine about the resounding defeat of his army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which will slip into opposition in the next Parliament.PHOTO: REUTERS
Myanmar President Thein Sein (above) speaking at a meeting of nearly 90 political parties in Yangon yesterday. The former junta general appeared sanguine about the resounding defeat of his army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which wil
Myanmar President Thein Sein (above) speaking at a meeting of nearly 90 political parties in Yangon yesterday. The former junta general appeared sanguine about the resounding defeat of his army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which will slip into opposition in the next Parliament.PHOTO: REUTERS

President says opposition's landslide win was due to regime's successful reforms

YANGON • Myanmar's President Thein Sein said yesterday that the historic polls - won in a huge landslide by Aung San Suu Kyi's party - were the consequence of his government's reforms and vowed a smooth transition of power.

The former junta general, who shed his uniform to lead the country's quasi-civilian regime five years ago, said the Nov 8 polls were testament to the political and economic changes that have swept the former pariah state since the end of junta rule.

"The election is the result of our reform process and as we promised, we were able to hold it very successfully," he told a meeting of political parties in Yangon, in his first public appearance since the polls.

"We will hand this process (of reform) on to a new government," he said, in comments aimed at calming nerves in the country's first attempt at a democratic-style transition for decades.

Addressing representatives of nearly 90 political parties, many of which were trounced by Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), the Myanmar leader said elections are the "duty" of a democratic nation.

He appeared sanguine about the resounding defeat of his army- backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which will slip into opposition in the next Parliament - due to sit from February - with about 10 per cent of the elected seats in the national Parliament, compared with the NLD's 80 per cent.

"The winning party is responsible for carrying out its duty and other opposition parties should provide checks and balances. That is called democracy," he said.

Mr Thein Sein, a slight, bespectacled 70-year-old, has steered the country's dramatic opening up after years of isolation, freeing political prisoners, unleashing a long- muzzled press and welcoming foreign investment.

He said international praise for the elections suggested they were "free and fair". Both the President and army chief have agreed to talks with Ms Suu Kyi in the coming days as the country's political big-hitters look to negotiate a long transition which will see Mr Thein Sein retain his position until March.

Observers say it is imperative that Ms Suu Kyi build friendly ties with the military elite, which retains significant political and economic power. She has already travelled to the capital, Naypyitaw, where she will attend today a last session of the old Parliament, which will continue sitting as a caretaker legislature until January.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win, who attended yesterday's Yangon meeting, reaffirmed the party's commitment to "national reconciliation and peace".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2015, with the headline 'Myanmar leader vows smooth transition of power'. Print Edition | Subscribe