Myanmar election

Minority parties hit hard at polls

Aung San Suu Kyi has pledged to rule regardless of a junta-era Constitution that bars her from the presidency.
Aung San Suu Kyi has pledged to rule regardless of a junta-era Constitution that bars her from the presidency.

Ethnic groups manage to win just 10 per cent of seats after Suu Kyi's NLD clinches 80%

YANGON • Myanmar's diverse ethnic minority parties were counting their losses yesterday after Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's pro-democracy party swept to a landslide victory in historic polls.

Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) has so far scooped 80 per cent of elected seats in polls that promise to dramatically redraw the political landscape in a nation stifled for decades under the grip of army rule.

The NLD sailed past the threshold needed for an absolute parliamentary majority last Friday, giving the party a massive popular mandate with only a few results still trickling out yesterday.

As the results became clear, parties representing Myanmar's myriad ethnic minority groups emerged as major losers in the vote, taking just 10 per cent of seats in the combined Parliament and losing out to the NLD even in regional areas.

"Ethnic parties won very few seats. We did not want to see this, but it has happened," said Mr Aye Maung, chairman of the Arakan National Party, who lost his own seat to the NLD in violence-torn western Rakhine state.

He voiced concerns over whether "ethnic voices can be heard" now in the new Parliament.

Ms Suu Kyi, 70, has said her party supports a federal future for Myanmar, where ethnic minority groups have fought decades-long wars for greater political autonomy. But she was also criticised in the run-up to the polls for failing to reach out to smaller minority parties.

President Thein Sein's quasi-civilian government has inked ceasefire agreements with a clutch of ethnic armed groups, but several major conflicts continue, including in Shan state on the eastern border, where the military last week launched air strikes against ethnic rebels even as votes were counted, according to the United Nations.

Fighting has affected the election, with the authorities cancelling seven whole national Parliament constituencies - all in Shan state - as well as suspending voting in swathes of northern Kachin state and Karen state in the east.

Both army chief Min Aung Hlaing and Mr Thein Sein, whose reforms have opened the country to the world, have vowed to respect the election result and agreed to hold talks with Ms Suu Kyi.

She has pledged to rule regardless of a junta-era Constitution that bars her from the presidency, a legally uncertain plan that has not been fleshed out by her party.

Myanmar's army still retains huge power with a quarter of parliamentary seats reserved for unelected soldiers, and military appointees in charge of key security ministries.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 15, 2015, with the headline 'Myanmar election Minority parties hit hard at polls'. Print Edition | Subscribe