Burma (Myanmar) elections: The day after

The positive news this afternoon came early: some say
The positive news this afternoon came early: some say this was a misinterpretation of the ruling party chief conceding his own seat.

At five past three (China time) today, I saw some fantastic news, via the Guardian’s breaking news app:

Myanmar elections: ruling party concedes defeat to Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party

This was the best news I could possibly imagine. I shared it. But I knew it was too good, or at least too fast, to be true. Many sources said there may be no finalised results for weeks after yesterday’s elections. Unless the USDP, the ruling party that seized power in 1962 in a previous incarnation, had decided to throw in the towel and simply hand the reigns to the NLD? For some reason, I had doubts about that.

NLD voter’s finger dyed with indelible ink © Chit Mwaye (via Facebook)

Since this announcement, many have speculated that this was a misinterpretation. The ruling party chief may have simply conceded his own seat. Although perhaps this reinterpretation is one way of saving face for the party as a whole? Reuters reported that acting chairman Htay Oo literally said “We lost” in an interview today. The Guardian later reported him saying, that the USDP ‘has more losses than wins’.

By the time I write, initial results have begun to come in. Every single one of the first 12 seats to be announced went to the opposition party, Suu Kyi’s NLD. By five thirty China time, 16 of the 17 announced seats have gone to the NLD. This is excellent news for the Burmese people, who have not experienced a truly free and fair democratic election in 25 years.

The Union Election Commission’s Election agenda for today’s results

Three of the first fifteen successfully elected NLD candidates are women.

However, Burma (Myanmar) is a big country. The first constituencies to be announced are in Yangon and surrounding districts. Yangon is the country’s largest city and the area predicted to concede most seats to NLD. There is a high likelihood that other areas of the country will not yield such positive results for the NLD.

Nonetheless, the NLD are expected to will a large majority of the 498 available seats. Burma has a first-past-the-post electoral system (like the UK), which means the NLD must win a majority, but will probably have to share power with (several) other represented parties. 

Suu Kyi has warned her supporters against gloating over NLD successes, trying to encourage NLD celebrations without increasing existing tensions between the NLD and other parties (particularly the USDP).

Three voters show their ink-stained pinkies. This prevents voters from voting more than once, an effort to ensure free and fair elections. ©Hlaphyo Tun (via Facebook)

Celebrations began outside the NLD headquarters in Yangon hours ago.

Supporters have been singing songs dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi in anticipation of a potential election victory. They sang a song titled ‘The Strong Peacock’, which is a reference to the NLD party logo that shows a golden peacock and star on a red background.

They sang: “She is the people’s leader that the whole world knows… Write your own history in your hearts for our future, so the dictatorship will end. Go, go, go (away) dictatorship…”

So, although the USDP have not entirely conceded power to the NLD (as perhaps many were led to believe), the Burmese people are in high spirits (despite the reported downpour dampening outdoor celebrations) as the initial election results are revealed.

Election results will likely not be clear until Tuesday (tomorrow) at the earliest. And what the potential NLD victory actually means for the country may be a long time coming. But now is definitely a time of change in Burma, as the NLD slogan “Time For Change” has been promising for decades.

Read on:

The Guardian’s live election results: Myanmar elections: ruling party ‘has more losses than wins’ says chairman – live | World news | The Guardian.

Reuters report: Myanmar ruling party concedes poll defeat as Suu Kyi heads for landslide

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