Myanmar elections- National League for Democracy re-elected to power

 Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD won 346 seats in both houses of parliament to retain the government

According to the results announced by Myanmar Union Election Commission, National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi won 346 seats in the parliament to form the government for second term. Any party wants to form the government required 322 seats in Parliament.

 The both houses of parliament have total 664 seats. The military has 110 reserved seats out of the house of 440. While the upper has 224 seats including 56 reserved for military junta. The elections were held on 330 lower house seats and 168 seats of  upper house.  NLD won the previous elections and formed the government after signing a power sharing deal with military junta.

The NLD won 346 seats in the combined lower and upper houses of the legislature, far above the 322 needed to secure a majority, the Union Election Commission announced on television and in social media, even 64 seats from Sunday's election have yet to be declared.

Myanmar held its first national elections since 2015, when Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won a smashing victory in the first free and fair national elections in the country in decades.

The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, the main opposition party, won 25 seats, and the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, representing the ethnic Shan minority, won 15 seats. The Shan, whose homeland is in eastern Myanmar, are the country's largest ethnic minority.

An unofficial count by Yway Mal, an independent vote counting service, gave the NLD 397 seats and the USDP 28, with 44 going to other parties. The USDP has called the election unfair and refused to accept the election results, but the election commission rejected its claim and its demand for a fresh vote.

Majority control of Parliament does not give the NLD full control of government. The army-drafted constitution of 2008 grants the military 25% of the total seats, enough to block constitutional changes. Several key ministerial positions are also reserved for military appointees.

Independent rights groups have criticised the disenfranchisement of the Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority and cancellation of the vote in certain areas. Rohingya Muslims were not allowed to vote. This was the first election after the genocide of Rohingya in Rakhine state.

The Union Election Commission cited the dangers of ongoing combat between government forces and ethnic minority guerrillas, but critics suggested certain areas were singled out for cancellation because they were certain to elect lawmakers from parties hostile to the current government.

One of the guerrilla groups, the Arakan Army, said Thursday it would extend a unilateral ceasefire to December 31 to allow by-elections to be held in areas of Rakhine province where voting had been cancelled.

Confirmation of the comfortable win will be a welcome boost for Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate who has had a turbulent first term marked by a brutal 2017 crackdown on the ethnic Rohingya that is now the subject of a genocide investigation, a failure to make significant headway on the country’s myriad ethnic conflicts and now the coronavirus.

Apparently, the appeal of Suu Kyi and the NLD—as a historic opposition, as a bulwark against military rule, as the only real national party with grassroots outreach across Myanmar—may have been enough for many ethnic minority voters to choose the NLD, despite the failures of the peace process and the rising anger toward the party in some ethnic minority regions. 

NLD is going to win by an even larger margin than in 2015, and the military backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has done worse. It seems like it is getting crushed and the NLD has taken seats from areas the USDP previously held.

NLD would potentially have the opportunity to follow through on promised reforms that would reduce the power of the military junta, the dominant institution in Myanmar. This indeed would be a major battle in Myanmar politics after the election, and one that could determine the country’s future.

Myanmar suffered nearly 50 years of isolation and decay under strict military rule, and Aung San Suu Kyi herself spent many years under house arrest before the generals began to loosen their hold on power and the first elections were held in 2011.

This time, the ballot was seen as a referendum on Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, which maintained its popularity at home even as the Rohingya crisis damaged its international reputation. Rohingya were excluded from the poll, while voting was cancelled in some conflict areas, affecting some 1.5 million people.

International and domestic observers said the vote went smoothly and without major irregularities, but there has been criticism of the commission’s lack of transparency and its cancellation of the polls across many ethnic minority areas, which sparked more upset in already restive areas.

                                                           Khalid Bhatti 

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