Myanmar election: Ruling party chief concedes defeat to opposition NLD, which says it has won over 80% of the vote in central regions

Htay Oo, acting chairman of Myanmar's ruling party, concedes defeat to Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition on Nov 9.
Htay Oo, acting chairman of Myanmar's ruling party, concedes defeat to Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition on Nov 9. PHOTO: ST FILE

HINTHADA, Myanmar (Reuters) - The acting chairman of Myanmar's ruling party conceded defeat to Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition on Monday (Nov 9) and said he would accept the result of the country's first free national election in 25 years.

"We lost," Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) leader Htay Oo told Reuters in an interview a day after the South-east Asian country's first free nationwide election in quarter of a century.

The vote count is still under way and no results have been officially announced, but preliminary reports from around the country indicate a wide margin of victory for Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD).

"We have to find out the reason why we lost," Mr Htay Oo, a close ally of President Thein Sein, said. "However, we do accept the results without any reservations. We still don't know the final results for sure."

Mr Htay Oo said he was surprised by the scale of his defeat in his own parliamentary constituency in Hinthada, in the delta region, considered the heartland of the USDP's rural support base.

"I wasn't expecting it because we were able to do a lot for the people in this region." he said. "Anyway, it's the decision of the people."

The election commission has not yet announced any results from Sunday's poll, but the NLD said that partial counts showed it had won more than 80 per cent of votes cast in the densely populated central regions.

NLD spokesman Win Htein said that outside the central area, the Nobel peace laureate's party had so far won more than 65 per cent of votes cast in the states of Mon and Kayin.

Results from the five other states were not yet known, he added.

The central area is made up of seven administrative divisions.

It was not yet clear whether the NLD would win the two-thirds of seats in Parliament it needs to form the first democratically elected Myanmar government since the early 1960s.

But, with a first-past-the-post system for winning constituencies, a commanding lead in the popular vote makes it likely.

The election was a landmark in the country's unsteady journey to democracy from the military dictatorship that made it a pariah state for so long.

It is also a moment that MS Suu Kyi will relish after spending years under house arrest.

Whatever the result, Myanmar is heading into a period of uncertainty over how Ms Suu Kyi and other ascendant parties negotiate sharing power with the still-dominant military.

Ms Suu Kyi started the contest with a sizeable handicap.

The military-drafted Constitution guarantees one-quarter of Parliament's seats to unelected members of the armed forces.

Even if she gets the majority she needs, Ms Suu Kyi is barred from taking the presidency herself under the Constitution written by the junta to preserve its power.

MS Suu Kyi has said she would be the power behind the new president regardless of a Constitution she has derided as "very silly".

The military will, however, retain significant power.

It is guaranteed key ministerial positions, the Constitution gives it the right to take over the government under certain circumstances, and it also has a grip on the economy through holding companies.

Incomplete vote counts showed some of the most powerful politicians of the USDP trailing in their bids for parliamentary seats, indicating a heavy loss for the party created by the former junta and led by retired military officers.

Among the losers was USDP chief Htay Oo, who told Reuters from the rural delta heartlands that are a bastion of support for his party he was "surprised" by his own defeat.