Myanmar Opposition Races Ahead in Landmark Poll

Supporters of Myanmar's National League for Democracy, or NLD, celebrate outside party headquarters Sunday in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo: EPA / Rungroj Yongrit

YANGON — Myanmar's opposition National League for Democracy eyed victory Monday as it notched up early wins in the country's first openly contested elections for 25 years.

In the first official results, the election commission said the party, known as the NLD, won all 12 seats in the area around former capital Yangon.

The commission also announced that the party had swept Yangon's regional parliament, winning all 20 seats, and confirmed 25 seats had gone to the NLD in the lower house.

The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, or USDP, "lost in all the constituencies in the Ayeyawaddy Division," its acting leader Htay Oo told dpa, adding that Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD had swept the division.

Ayeyawaddy is a delta region thought to have been a USDP stronghold. 

USDP had won two lower house seats, according to the most recent results released by the election commission.

"It is too early to congratulate our candidates," NLD leader and Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi said at the party headquarters, "but I think you all have an idea of the results."

There have been no opinion or exit polls in the country, which was under military rule from 1962 to 2011, and is currently governed by the military-backed USDP.

The commission stated overnight that voter turnout was around 80 percent.

Former USDP leader and Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann conceded the loss of his seat in Phyu, around 200 kilometers north of Yangon.

"I congratulate Thein Nyunt of the National League for Democracy on his win," he posted on Facebook.

The NLD lodged a complaint with the commission about advance ballots arriving at polling stations after midnight, well past the 4 pm deadline when the stations closed, an official told dpa.

"This is against election law," said Sai Leik, spokesman for the NLD-aligned Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, adding it happened in the north and east where the NLD was ahead in the count.

The United States praised the "peaceful and historic" elections, but called on the country for transparent results.

The polls are "an important step forward," Secretary of State John Kerry said, but he noted "impediments to the realization of full democratic and civilian government."

These include the ongoing disenfranchisement of minority Rohingya Muslims, and the reservation of unelected seats for the military, he said.

The European Union's High Representative Federica Mogherini, who oversees foreign policy, called the election "a historic milestone on the country's road to democracy" and offered Myanmar the bloc's support in its political transition.

It was the first openly contested elections for 25 years.

There are 168 elected seats in the Amyotha Hluttaw or the upper house of parliament, and normally 330 in the Pyithu Hluttaw or the lower house.

It is expected to take days before the election commission reveals the official results in full.

The NLD boycotted the previous elections in 2010 over a clause in the constitution that bars Suu Kyi from becoming president, as her sons are British.

In the vote before that, in 1990, the NLD won a solid majority, but the result was ignored by the military government, which has been in power in different forms since 1962.

Suu Kyi warned her supporters not to be too boastful in victory, nor to congratulate the candidates until they prove themselves in office. "Let's wait to see whether they are working for the people," she said.

Story: DPA / Kyaw Lynn and Cod Satrusayang