Myanmar elections

Possible outcomes and what they mean

The results from Myanmar's elections yesterday are expected to come in slowly. Officials say the winners of only a few parliamentary seats will be announced by the end of the night. A clear overall picture is not expected to emerge until tomorrow morning. So what is the most likely outcome? Here is a look at some potential scenarios from the landmark vote.

OUTRIGHT MAJORITY FOR NLD

This would be the dream scenario for Ms Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD). An outright majority would give her party a much stronger footing in the jostling for who becomes president, a post that will be decided by Myanmar's legislative chambers early next year.

An outright majority would help the NLD install a favourable president. To do that, the NLD needs to win 67 per cent of the 498 seats available.

In contrast, Ms Suu Kyi's rivals - the army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) - needs to win only 33 per cent of the seats.

That is because, under the military junta-crafted Constitution, a quarter of the legislative seats are reserved for military appointees who would be allied with the USDP.

People waiting to vote at a polling station in Mandalay yesterday.
People waiting to vote at a polling station in Mandalay yesterday. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Even if Ms Suu Kyi wins, she cannot become president - the Constitution bars those with foreign-born offspring from taking the top spot. It is a condition many believe was specifically crafted to stop Ms Suu Kyi, who has two British sons.

NO OUTRIGHT MAJORITY FOR NLD

The NLD could fail to seize control of the Upper House. Ms Suu Kyi would then need coalition partners. Her most likely allies are to be found in the parties representing Myanmar's ethnic minorities.

Myanmar is a patchwork of more than 100 ethnic groups, and the ethnic minorities make up around 30 per cent of the population.

Ethnic parties will be looking for favours in return for joining any coalition and Ms Suu Kyi would need to carefully consider who she reaches out to, as an alliance could collapse if expectations are not met.

RULING USDP STAYS IN CHARGE

The ruling USDP and current President Thein Sein have had ample time to prepare for the elections and have remained bullish throughout, portraying themselves as the only group that can safely continue Myanmar's democratic transition to stability and prosperity.

So even if the NLD wins the most seats, a coalition of the USDP, some ethnic parties and the army with its 25 per cent of reserved seats will enable the military candidate to take the presidency.

That would almost certainly mean a second term for President Thein Sein, and this could be possible even if his party takes as little as 15 per cent of the seats that are up for grabs.

Constitutionally, it would be a legal and fair result, but analysts think that this would be a much harder proposition, given the fact that many ethnic groups have been waging war against the military for decades.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO

Given the country's turbulent history and the military's track record of ignoring votes that do not go its way, a period of instability and even conflict cannot be ruled out.

Such a scenario is much more likely if there are widespread allegations - or proof - of election fraud.

Millions of Myanmar citizens have now tasted democracy for the first time in generations. It is unlikely that they would take a stolen election lying down.

If the elections are fair, danger still lies in thwarted expectations if the NLD does not claim a majority.

The President and the military have insisted that they will respect the election outcome.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, BBC

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2015, with the headline 'Possible outcomes and what they mean'. Print Edition | Subscribe