Suu Kyi party closes in on Myanmar poll victory

Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition was Friday tantalisingly close to winning a majority to govern, with just a few seats needed in a slow count after weekend polls that herald a historic shift in power.

The election, the first Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party has contested since 1990, saw a huge turnout that has yielded more than 80 percent of seats for the NLD.

Government beckons for Suu Kyi’s party in a seismic change of the political landscape in a country controlled for five decades by the military.

Election officials have kept the public on their toes for days, drip-feeding results.

With 327 seats across the lower and upper houses, the NLD lies just short of claiming a basic parliamentary majority.

The NLD is expected to burst through that margin to secure a big working majority in a parliament where 25 percent of seats are reserved for the army.

But a large majority will give Suu Kyi, 70, leverage in the political wrangling ahead with a military establishment that has been chastened at the polls but retains sweeping powers.

The NLD “will be able to pass whatever law they want, they won’t need to form coalitions, they won’t need to reach out across the aisle,” independent analyst Richard Horsey told AFP.

But during the transition the NLD will need to be mindful “to keep everyone on board,” he added.

– Call for ‘reconciliation talks’ –

Buoyed by the almost certain win, Suu Kyi has called for “national reconciliation talks” with President Thein Sein and army chief Min Aung Hlaing.

Both men have congratulated the NLD on its election performance and have vowed to abide by the result as well as help a peaceful transition of power.

Thein Sein’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, which is made up of former military cadres, has been mauled at the election.

Yet the president, a former general who swapped his uniform for civilian clothes to lead the government in 2011, has won praise for steering the reforms that culminated in Sunday’s peaceful poll.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon congratulated Suu Kyi for her election win, but also hailed the “courage and vision” of Thein Sein for “leadership in the reform process”.

The international community has welcomed the election, with US President Barack Obama calling both Suu Kyi and the president to offer his congratulations.

Ahead of the election the US hinted it could rollback more sanctions in reward for a successful and peaceful election.

Obama has staked immense political capital in Myanmar’s transition from authoritarian rule to an emergent democracy, backing the NLD’s polar force Suu Kyi and visiting the country twice in the last four years.

Yet the country’s military is not about to disappear. It retains major influence with its parliamentary bloc which effectively assures a veto over constitutional change.

It also has key ministerial posts reserved under the charter.

That document bars Suu Kyi from the presidency.

Many NLD supporters remain deeply suspicious of the army and its political allies, who are notorious for dirty tricks and crackdowns that have left hundreds dead and thousands jailed.

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