Burma election update: The results are (almost) in

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To find out what’s been happening in the elections so far, catch up with our blog post from last week; or for some background on politics in Burma, have a look at our blog post from earlier this year.

It’s been just over a week since the people of Myanmar cast their votes in the first open election for 25 years. As it stands, 1160 out of 1171 seats have now been counted, confirmed, and officially declared, and the National League for Democracy have come out top!

The Burmese state newspapers have promised that the remaining 11 seats will be announced by the 20th of November at the latest. All 11 seats are delayed due to problems returning counted ballots from local township offices in Kachin State, one of Burma’s most remote regions.

Whatever the result of these final few seats, what is certain is that Aung San Suu Kyi’s party have stormed to victory and absolutely crushed their competitors. The turnout for the election was around 80%, and the NLD have won 390 out of a possible 491 seats in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Assembly of the Union), with one seat left to be declared. To put that in perspective, their nearest rivals, the USDP, won just 41.

As the NLD only needed 329 seats to decide the next president and ensure control over the passage of laws, this gives them a very comfortable majority indeed.

Is that really it?

For those who remember the election woes of 1990 (when the NLD also won a landslide victory, but were prevented from taking office), the triumph has been tempered with a large pinch of scepticism. Is this actually the historic, game-changing event that it appears to be, or are the military (who will still be machinating away in the background with their 25% share in government) still be pulling the strings?

Nobody is naïve enough to believe that this election spells the end of Burma’s troubles, but it is one step away from dictatorship – and the military’s apparent magnanimity in defeat seems to suggest that they will not be resorting to old tricks (i.e. locking their rival in her house for 15 years) anytime soon.

So far, current president Thein Sein seems to have been magnanimous in defeat.
So far, current president Thein Sein seems to have been magnanimous in defeat.

What next?

The final result will (fingers crossed) be announced by the end of this week, but meanwhile Aung San Suu Kyi is already in talks with her former captors about the transfer of power.

So far The Lady has been careful to keep any celebration discreet, knowing all too well that her party’s position of power depends entirely on the consent of the ruling USDP. She has ruffled a few feathers, however, by making it clear that she will be the one governing Burma – ruling from “above the president”.

The military, meanwhile, still has many fingers in many pies. Not only will they be passing a few quick laws and a new budget before they hand over power (very sneaky) – but they will also be retaining control over defence, border affairs, and national security forces indefinitely. This may well prove to be a thorn in the NLD’s side long after the celebrations are over.

For now, however, let’s not rain on the NLD’s parade. Five years ago Aung San Suu Kyi was still under house arrest; today she is poised to become the most powerful woman in Burma. This is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, and an incredibly exciting time for Burma!

Check out our blog post from earlier this year to read more about Aung San Suu Kyi: the world’s most famous political prisoner.

For detailed updates on the election as it progressed, the Myanmar Times Live Blog is the best and most accurate source. The final result will be published here when announced.

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