Suu Kyi supporters optimistic as Myanmar vote count under way

Supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party were optimistic Monday of a victory in Myanmar’s milestone elections as they awaited first results from polls that could sweep away decades of military control.

Election authorities are expected to hold a press conference at 4:00 pm (0930 GMT) that could see some partial results announced. They have said that preliminary figures would be released within 48 hours of Sunday’s vote, and a full nationwide count within 10 days or so.

But on the streets of Yangon many voters were confident that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) was poised for a big win after what has been hailed as the freest elections in decades.

“I have no doubt about the results. I think everything is going to change,” said Yee Yee, 30, a spice seller at a market in central Yangon, who voted for the NLD.

The party remained tight-lipped Monday, apparently hunkering down in anticipation of an official announcement.

When the count began Sunday, early indications were of an “80 percent” turnout, according to Union Election Commission deputy director Thant Zin Aung — a figure the opposition believes favours their bid for a majority.

Even the state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar declared the nation had entered the “dawn of a new era”.

In a jubilant and often emotional day on Sunday, millions queued from dawn for a chance to cast their ballots, and displayed little fingers dyed with purple ink to show they had voted.

Many were first-time voters while others had voted quarter of a century ago, only to see their democratic aspirations crushed by the military which ignored the results, an outcome many hope will not be repeated this time around.

The NLD last contested elections in 1990 and won by a huge majority, but the then-ruling generals refused to respect the results and clung on to power, plunging the country into isolation and repression.

A senior NLD official urged patience from the euphoric crowd outside party headquarters late Sunday, as many refused to go home.

“We are waiting because we want to know the result,” said Muang Kyaing, 67, outside the party’s downtown base.

“Of course we have worries,” he said, floating fears of chicanery during the count tipping the balance away from the NLD.

Myanmar has seen huge changes since a quasi-civilian regime replaced outright military rule in 2011, after flawed polls that were boycotted by the NLD.

Since then the government has surprised many by launching reforms that saw the end of most international sanctions and threw open the country to international investment.

President Thein Sein and the still-powerful army chief have both vowed to respect the outcome of the election — even if the army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party loses its choke-hold on power.


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