Myanmar's military chief says armed forces will respect vote

A young supporter of National League for Democracy chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi (not pictured) waits for her arrival during a rally in Thanlyin Township, on the outskirts of Yangon on Aug 21, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

NAYPYITAW (REUTERS) - Myanmar's powerful commander-in-chief has reiterated that the military will respect the outcome of the country's Nov 8 election, seen as a crucial test of Myanmar's reform process.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said that the main concern of the armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, is that the vote is carried out fairly and that the result is respected by everyone - even if 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 members of the Myanmar's Interim Press Council, a media support group, during a meeting on Monday.

"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.

In 1997, the NLD won in a landslide but the vote was not recognised by the military. The 2010 ballot was widely seen as rigged and boycotted by the NLD.

Myanmar's military ceded power to a quasi-civilian government in 2011, ending 49 years of military rule but the military still looms large in the country's political arena.

A quarter of all of the country's 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.

Min Aung Hlaing said that the military would step back from this position "at an appropriate time".

"It will change accordingly when peace, stability and tranquility prevail in the country," he said.

The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which contains a large number of former military officials, saw a major shake-up earlier this month when the party chairman, Shwe Mann, was dramatically ousted by President Thein Sein.

Min Aung Hlaing declined to comment on the moves saying they were internal party affairs, but did say 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."

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