NLD set for landslide win in Myanmar

Ms Aung San Suu Kyi arriving at the NLD headquarters in Yangon yesterday, where supporters were celebrating in expectation of a big win.
Ms Aung San Suu Kyi arriving at the NLD headquarters in Yangon yesterday, where supporters were celebrating in expectation of a big win.PHOTO: REUTERS

Ruling party concedes defeat before official results for Sunday's poll begin coming out

The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Ms Aung San Suu Kyi is headed for a spectacular landslide win in Myanmar's general election, early results and analyses of trends indicate.

The ruling, military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) conceded defeat yesterday even before official results began coming out in the afternoon.

Sunday's poll was the first genuinely multi-party general election in 25 years. The last such election in 1990 saw the NLD win by a landslide, but the result was annulled by the army.

A huge crowd gathered yesterday for the second evening running at the NLD office in Yangon, dancing and singing wildly in celebration. In a brief appearance earlier at the modest party office, Ms Suu Kyi congratulated voters on their "political awakening" but cautioned that the result of the election was only the beginning. "Now is not the time to congratulate the candidates of the NLD. We will congratulate them only after they have successfully served the electorate," she said.

The NLD, which needs to win 67 per cent of the 498 seats at stake to gain an overall majority in Parliament, is set to exceed expectations and may end with 70 per cent or more, say some political analysts.

The USDP, which held 346 seats, may crash to as low as 30 to 40 seats, said an analyst close to the party. Previously, its internal worst-case scenario was thought to be 60 seats, a party source said.

Among major USDP figures who lost were party co-chairman Htay Oo and Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann - both in their home towns. Speaker of the Lower House Nanda Kyaw Swar and a key minister, Mr Aung Min - the government's chief negotiator in the peace process with ethnic groups who ran as an independent - also lost.

There were only a few bright spots for the USDP - including Meiktila and Coco Islands where its candidates won. Another key minister, Mr Soe Thane, won as an independent. But it appears likely that the USDP and its allies will be reduced to a thin backbench in the next Parliament.

The NLD also did well in ethnic minority areas. Dr Aye Maung, leader of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, reportedly lost to the NLD in Rakhine state. 

President Thein Sein did not run in the election, and is expected to remain in office until next March when the new government takes power. The new president will be nominated and voted in by Parliament in the next few months. Technically, Mr Thein Sein himself could be nominated; the president need not be an MP.

Ms Suu Kyi, 70, cannot be the president because of a clause in the Constitution that bars anyone with foreign family connections from the office. Her late husband was a British citizen, and so are her two sons. But in a statement last week that raised eyebrows among top USDP figures, she said: "If we win, and the NLD forms a government, I will be above the president."

Analysts caution that she must play her cards skilfully going ahead. In an interview, Yangon-based analyst Richard Horsey, a former top United Nations official in Myanmar, said: "The first and most important thing for any new president is to develop a good working relationship with the commander-in-chief."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2015, with the headline 'NLD set for landslide win in Myanmar'. Print Edition | Subscribe