Suu Kyi expects NLD to win more than 400 seats

Myanmar's National League for Democracy party leader Aung San Suu Kyi arriving at her party headquarters after the general elections in Yangon on Nov 9, 2015.
Myanmar's National League for Democracy party leader Aung San Suu Kyi arriving at her party headquarters after the general elections in Yangon on Nov 9, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

In Myanmar's 664-seat Parliament, it would be enough for party to form govt on its own

Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) looks to have won enough seats to form a government on its own as it continues its electoral sweep in Myan- mar's first election in 25 years.

Ms Suu Kyi told BBC she expected NLD's number to cross 400 seats, with some analysts predicting 420 or even more. As of 6pm in Myanmar yesterday, the NLD had won 107 seats to the Union Solidarity and Development Party's (USDP) seven in Parliament.

Myanmar has a 664-seat Parliament, with 25 per cent or 166 seats reserved for the military. But analysts expect its ally, the ruling USDP, to see its share whittled down to below 50 seats.

"Our USDP lost completely," senior party member Kyi Win was quoted as telling Agence France-Presse.

The rest of the seats will be filled by smaller parties, many of them representing ethnic minorities.

Sunday's election was also for 14 state or regional assemblies.

Results still trickling in yesterday indicated a sweep by NLD, with the possible exception of Rakhine state, where the Arakan National Party may gain control of the legislature even though its leader, Dr Aye Maung, lost to his NLD rival.

In Myanmar's system, the victorious party can take power only in four to five months.

Parliament will first convene after which three names will be proposed for the post of president, one each from the army bloc and the Upper and Lower Houses. The sitting MPs will choose the president in a secret vote. The two with the least votes will become vice-presidents.

Ms Suu Kyi is barred by the military-written Constitution from becoming president because of her foreign family connections. Her late husband was from Britain and her two sons are British citizens. She will have to nominate someone as NLD's candidate for the top post.

A measured and peaceful transition could lead to the lifting of remaining sanctions by the US.

Mr Daniel Russel, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, said yesterday that after 50 years of military dictatorship, the election was "a hell of a step forward for the democratic process" before adding: "Now comes the hard part."

President Thein Sein, a former top army general, and the armed forces commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, have pledged several times to accept the results of Sunday's election.

"The United States and, I believe, other members of the international community have every intention of holding them to that," said Mr Russel.

The NLD's huge majority will inevitably roll back some of the army's influence. Analysts say the NLD must be strategic, and Ms Suu Kyi must manage the relationship with the army carefully.

"The army is fine, so long as Aung San Suu Kyi does not touch its prerogatives," said an analyst close to the current government who asked not to be named. These include the 25 per cent military bloc, as well as the army's right to appoint three key ministers - for Border Affairs, Defence and Home Affairs.

But Yangon-based analyst Richard Horsey, in a comment for the International Crisis Group, wrote: "If Suu Kyi… reassures the military that she's going to work with them, there is no reason for confrontation between the two.

"If, however, she focuses on pushing constitutional change and on trying to leverage her popular mandate to challenge the military's position, there could be trouble ahead."

In an interview with The Straits Times, Dr Horsey added: "She cannot afford not to have a good relationship with the Commander in Chief."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2015, with the headline 'Suu Kyi expects NLD to win more than 400 seats'. Print Edition | Subscribe