Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, has won Myanmar’s general election, officials say.
With more than 80% of contested seats now declared, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party has more than the two-thirds it needs to choose the president, ending decades of military-backed rule.
A quarter of seats are automatically held by the military, meaning it remains hugely influential.
Under the constitution Aung San Suu Kyi cannot become president herself.
Despite this, the election was seen as the first openly contested poll in Myanmar – also known as Burma – in 25 years.
By early Friday, the NLD needed two more votes to reach the threshold required for a majority.
Then at midday, the electoral commission said the party had taken 348 of the 664 seats in the two houses of parliament. This represents a two-thirds majority of the contested seats.
Votes are being counted and the final tally is not expected for several days.
The process of choosing Myanmar’s new president will begin in January, when parliament reconvenes.
Current President Thein Sein and the head of the military had already said they would respect the outcome and work with the new government.
They and the NLD are expected to being talks next week on the way forward.
About 30 million people were eligible to vote in the election – turnout was estimated at about 80%.
It was widely seen as a fair vote though there were reports of irregularities, and hundreds of thousands of people – including the Muslim Rohingya minority, who are not recognized as citizens – were denied voting rights.
The ruling military-backed Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP) – which won the last, widely criticized election five years ago – has so far gained about 5% of seats contested.
Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has won her own seat after the country’s historic parliamentary election.
Aung San Suu Kyi has requested meetings with the military-backed leadership next week to discuss national reconciliation.
Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has taken a decisive lead in results from November 8 election.
With about 40% of seats declared, the NLD has taken nearly 90% of the vote, leaving the military-backed USDP party with about 5% of seats.
However, a quarter of seats are reserved for the military.
Aung Suu Kyi sent letters to President Thein Sein, the commander of the armed forces and the parliamentary speaker.
She has not declared victory yet, and is treading carefully, say correspondents – calling for meetings next week with the three most senior figures in the current government to discuss an orderly transfer of power.
“A peaceful implementation of the people’s desire, which they expressed via the November 8 election, is very important for the country’s dignity and people’s peace of mind,” she wrote in letters made public by the NLD, according to the Irrawaddy news website.
“So I want to discuss with you in the spirit of national reconciliation. So please arrange a time for the meeting that would be convenient for you next week.”
In a response on his Facebook page, Information Minister Ye Htut reiterated that the government would respect the results of the poll, but said the requested meeting would only take place after the election commission had done its work, said AP news agency.
Aung Suu Kyi earlier retained her own seat and will return as lawmaker for her Kawhmu constituency in Rangoon – though she leads the NLD she is barred by the constitution from being president.
However, she has said “that won’t stop me from making all the decisions”.
The election commission is slowly releasing results.
The USDP, which has been in power in Myanmar since 2011, has taken 10 of the 491 seats being contested in both houses of parliament, compared to 163 by the NLD.
A quarter of the 664 parliamentary seats are set aside for the army. For the NLD to have the winning majority and be able to select the president, it will need at least two-thirds of the remaining seats – or 329.
About 30 million people were eligible to vote in last week’s election in Myanmar. Turnout was estimated at about 80%.
Hundreds of thousands of people – including the Muslim Rohingya minority, who are not recognized as citizens – were denied voting rights.
President Barack Obama has met Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon.
At a news briefing with the US president, Aung San Suu Kyi has said constitutional rules which bar her from running for president because her sons are half British are “unfair, unjust and undemocratic”.
She said the reform process in the once military-ruled nation had hit a “bumpy patch”.
Aung San Suu Kyi said it could be brought on track with international help.
President Barack Obama said the reforms were “by no means complete or irreversible”.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, moved from military to civilian rule in 2010 and is governed by a military-backed civilian administration.
Under Thein Sein, many political prisoners have been freed and media restrictions eased. The pro-democracy party of Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent years under house arrest, has rejoined the political fold and holds a small block of seats in parliament.
President Barack Obama has met Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon
Critics have warned that reforms have stalled in recent months, as all eyes turn to 2015 when the next general election will be held.
A clause in the new constitution states that anyone whose spouse or children are foreign citizens cannot run for the top job. Aung San Suu Kyi’s late husband was British and her two sons are British citizens.
Aung San Suu Kyi told reporters outside her home: “I always warn against over-optimism, because that could lead to complacency.
“Our reform process is going through a bumpy patch, but this bumpy patch is something we can negotiate with commitment, with help and understanding from our friends around the world.
“What we need is a healthy balance of optimism and pessimism.”
Barack Obama was in the Burmese capital, Nay Pyi Taw, on November 13 for an Asian summit where he held talks with President Thein Sein.
He said the process of reform was “by no means complete or irreversible” and added that the US “recognizes the challenges ahead and cannot be complacent”.
“I don’t understand a provision that would bar someone from running for president because of who their children are. That doesn’t make much sense to me,” he said.
Aung San Suu Kyi said the Burmese people supported the opposition’s call to amend the clause, but added: “I don’t think it’s because they want me to be president, but because they recognize it’s unfair, unjust and undemocratic.”
Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won a landslide victory in the by-elections in 2012. It did not contest the November 2010 general election because of laws it said were unfair.
Barack Obama said he and Aung San Suu Kyi had discussed ways of bolstering Myanmar’s transition.
Burma’s President Thein Sein has acknowledged major destruction in Rakhine state, the scene of recent ethnic unrest.
“There have been incidents of whole villages and parts of the towns being burnt down in Rakhine state,” said Thein Sein’s spokesman.
He was speaking after Human Rights Watch released satellite pictures showing hundreds of buildings destroyed in the coastal town of Kyaukpyu alone.
It says the victims were mostly Muslim Rohingya, targeted by non-Muslims.
Presidential spokesman Zaw Htay said the government was tightening security in Rakhine state, which is also known as Arakan.
“If necessary, we will send more police and military troops in order to get back stability,” he added.
There is long-standing tension between ethnic Rakhine people, who make up the majority of the state’s population, and Muslims, many of whom are Rohingya and are stateless.
The Burmese authorities regard the Rohingya as illegal immigrants and correspondents say there is widespread public hostility to them.
The satellite pictures released by Human Right Watch, a US-based group, show Kyaukpyu district on 9 October, and then on 25 October.
On 9 October, hundreds of closely packed houses can be seen on the peninsula, as well as scores of houseboats along the northern shoreline.
But in the image taken on Thursday, few boats remain and the 35-acre district is almost entirely empty of houses.
HRW said many residents are thought to have fled by boat.
A local reporter who visited the site said the area had been completely destroyed, with some buildings still smouldering.
At least 64 people were killed this week, officials said, in the first serious outburst of violence since June, when a state of emergency was declared in Rakhine.
At that time deadly clashes claimed dozens of lives and thousands of people were forced to flee their homes – many are yet to return.
HRW said it feared the death toll from the latest unrest could be much higher, based on witness reports and “the government’s well-documented history of underestimating figures that might lead to criticism of the state”.
Non-Muslims are reporting that this time they too were fired on by government forces during the unrest, and suffered many casualties.
The government has declared a curfew in the affected areas, but its response since the violence first broke out is being widely criticized as inadequate.
On Friday six towns were hit by clashes and a night-time curfew is in place in several locations including Min Bya and Mrauk Oo where the latest spate of violence began.
It is unclear what prompted the latest clashes. The Rakhine Buddhists and Muslims, believed to be mainly Rohingya, blame each other for the violence.
In Bangladesh, border officials said they believed several boats with Rohingyas on board were waiting to try to cross the river from Burma. One official said 52 Rohingya had been sent back in the last few days.
Muslims throughout Burma have abandoned plans to celebrate the festival of Eid al-Adha because of the violence.
In August, Burma set up a commission to investigate the violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the west of the country. Authorities earlier rejected a UN-led inquiry.
Thein Sein, Burma’s president will grant amnesty to more than 6,300 prisoners starting with tomorrow, according to the local state-controlled media.
The amnesty announcement in Burma was made on state television and did not specify how many of those freed prisoners would be political detainees.
Thein Sein’s announcement came hours after Burma’s new human rights body called for the release of “prisoners of conscience” who did not threaten state stability.
Yesterday, the United States said if Burma will show concrete progress on issues like political prisoners, it would respond.
Burma is currently under Western nations’ sanctions, and one of the key reasons is political prisoners.
Thein Sein, Burma's president will grant amnesty to more than 6,300 prisoners starting with tomorrow
The number of political detainees is thought to be more than two thousands and includes journalists, pro-democracy activists, government critics, monks involved in anti-government protests in 2007 and members of Burma’s ethnic groups fighting for greater autonomy.
It said that the total of 6,359 prisoners will be released starting with tomorrow.
The amnesty announcement did not say whether the action will include political prisoners, as Burma has in the past carried out large-scale amnesties without freeing political prisoners.
However, recently there have been reports from Burma, citing unidentified government officials, suggesting an amnesty of some political prisoners could be imminent.
Thein Sein amnesty announcement came on the same day that Burma’s new human rights commission called on the president to release “prisoners of conscience”.
The human rights commission said in an letter published in Burma’ state media that those who did not “pose a threat to the stability of state” should be freed to help with nation-building.
Burma held its first elections in two decades almost a year ago – polls which saw military rule replaced with a military-backed civilian-led government.
Starting with that moment, Burma’s government has freed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and held dialogue with her.
Yesterday, Kurt Campbell, a top US diplomat, said the United States had noted “dramatic developments under way” in Burma.
Kurt Campbell said also that Washington wanted to see concrete progress on issues like political prisoners – and if it did, the United States would respond.
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