World

Aung San Suu Kyi's party wins majority, Burma election officials confirm

Burma's election panel has released results showing that Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party has secured a historic majority in Parliament, in a landslide win for the pro-democracy crusader and a resounding rejection of decades-long military rule.

Even with peaceful transfer, new president would not be chosen until February

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      Burma's election panel has released results showing that Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party has secured a historic majority in Parliament, in a landslide win for the pro-democracy crusader and a resounding rejection of decades-long military rule.

      Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) had been expected to take control of parliament since Sunday's nationwide vote, and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. President Barack Obama had already congratulated her on a landmark victory in the country's first free election in 25 years.

      With the tally still being counted, the Election Commission said Friday that the NLD has won 15 more seats, pushing it over the threshold it needed of 329 seats for a majority in the 664-member, two-house Parliament.

      Obama and Ban also praised Burma President Thein Sein for successfully staging the historic poll, with the UN chief acknowledging his "courage and vision" to organise an election in which the ruling camp was trounced.

      The triumph of the charismatic Nobel peace prize laureate sweeps out an old guard of former generals that has run Burma, also known as Myanmar, since Thein Sein ushered in a raft of democratic and economic reforms four years ago.

      Thein Sein, whose semi-civilian government took power when the ruling junta stepped aside in 2011, and powerful army chief Min Aung Hlaing said they would respect the result and hold reconciliation talks with Suu Kyi soon.

      Such unambiguous endorsements of Suu Kyi's victory could smooth the lengthy post-election transition ahead of the last session of the old parliament, which reconvenes on Monday.

      Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is shown during the election campaign. She is constitutionally barred from actually serving as president. (Soe Zeya Tu/Reuters)
      Global leaders stressed that a large number of people were unable to cast their ballots.

      Burma's government has denied Rohingya Muslims citizenship, and hundreds died in clashes between Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in 2012. Some 140,000 Rohingya live in squalid camps, while thousands more have fled by boat, leading to a regional migration crisis.

      Suu Kyi has been criticized for not speaking out against abuses faced by the Muslim minority. The Rohingya situation will be one of the most contentious issues the new government will face.

      President would assume power in March

      With Suu Kyi's victory confirmed, the focus will quickly shift to NLD's presidential candidate and its plans for government. Burma's president runs the executive, with the exception of the powerful ministries of interior, defence and border security, which are controlled by the military.

      Under the indirect electoral system, the upper house, lower house, and military bloc in parliament each put forward a presidential candidate. The combined houses then vote on the three candidates, who do not have to be elected members of parliament. The winner becomes president and forms a government, while the losers become vice presidents with largely ceremonial responsibilities.
      A man prepares shirts on Friday in Rangoon with the images of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, chairperson of National League for Democracy (NLD) party. (Lynn Bo Bo/EPA)

      The vote for the presidency will take place after the new members take their seats in both houses in February. The president will assume power by the end of March.

      Suu Kyi is barred from becoming president by the junta-drafted constitution because her children are foreign nationals. She has become increasingly defiant on the presidential clause as the scale of her victory has become apparent, making it clear she will run the country regardless of who the NLD elects as president.

      "He will have no authority. He will act in accordance with the decisions of the party," said Suu Kyi in an interview with Channel News Asia, adding that the president would be "told exactly what he can do."

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