NAYPYITAW • Myanmar's powerful commander-in-chief has reiterated that the military will respect the outcome of the election in November, seen as a crucial test of the country's reform process.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said the main concern of the armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, is that the Nov 8 vote is carried out fairly and the result respected by everyone - even if Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) wins a majority.
"We wouldn't mind even if the NLD won in the next general election, as long as it is free and fair," he told the Interim Press Council, a media support group, on Monday.
SHOULD THE NLD WIN
We wouldn't mind even if the National League for Democracy won in the next general election, as long as it is free and fair. The Tatmadaw's desire is to see the upcoming elections be held free and fair.
SENIOR GENERAL MIN AUNG HLAING
"The Tatmadaw's desire is to see the upcoming elections be held free and fair. We will approve and support the results announced by the Union Election Commission."
Myanmar's recent elections have been plagued by military interference. The NLD's landslide victory in 1990 was not recognised by the military, and the 2010 ballot - widely seen as rigged - was boycotted by the NLD.
Although the military ceded power to a quasi-civilian government in 2011, it still looms large in the political arena. A quarter of all parliamentary seats are reserved for unelected military officers.
Changes to Myanmar's 2008 military-drafted Constitution require at least 75 per cent of support from lawmakers, giving the military an effective veto power over changes to the charter. Efforts to lower this threshold of support failed in June.
Gen Min Aung Hlaing said the military would step back from this position "at an appropriate time". "It will change accordingly when peace, stability and tranquillity prevail in the country," he said.
The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, which has a large number of former military men, saw a major shake-up earlier this month when chairman Shwe Mann was dramatically ousted by President Thein Sein. Mr Shwe Mann remains Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament.
Lawmakers have also delayed discussion of a Bill setting out provisions for removing a legislator from office until the next Parliament session, after the polls.
Gen Min Aung Hlaing declined to comment on the moves, saying they were internal party affairs, but did add that political party rifts could be damaging for citizens.
"To view it from an armed forces angle, it is not good for the country if there is a split in any major political party," he said. "It is the people who are normally affected by the impact, as our country has experienced in the past."