The Latest: EU says Myanmar vote ‘better than many expected’
YANGON — The latest on landmark elections in Myanmar. (All times local.)
The head of the European Union’s election observer team says the historic Myanmar elections were “better than many expected” but declined to call them free and fair.
Alexander Graf Lambsdorff told reporters Tuesday that the country had come a long way but “more reforms are needed to ensure truly genuine elections” in the future.
He says one of the problems was the constitutional framework where one quarter of Parliament seats are reserved for the military, meaning only 75 percent are elected at the polls.
Despite that, Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party is expected to win a landslide in Sunday’s election, giving the country’s its best chance to move toward greater democracy and loosen the grip of the military, which ruled the country for a half-century until 2011. It was replaced then by a quasi-civilian government, backed by the military.
The EU had a team of 150 observers monitoring the election.
In a reflection of the reverence many people here have for Aung San Suu Kyi, a woman in her 70s went to the opposition leader’s house to give her a ruby brooch set in gold, shaped like Myanmar’s map.
Htay Htay Aye told reporters: “I’ve kept this brooch for more than 40 years but it’s time for her (Suu Kyi) to wear it. This is a present for her victory.”
The woman was allowed to enter Suu Kyi’s compound and said she didn’t see the opposition leader who was in a meeting but left the brooch with a security guard. Party officials said Suu Kyi was meeting with party officials.
The apparent landslide win in the country’s historic election by Suu Kyi’s opposition party has triggered an outpouring of emotion in Myanmar, where Suu Kyi’s struggle and sacrifices during decades of military rule won her enormous support and respect.
A Washington-based human rights group has warned that ethnic and religious tension in Myanmar could boil over in the aftermath of the country’s historic election and lead to violence.
The group, United to End Genocide, urged the international community to closely monitor conditions in Myanmar where the about 500,000 eligible voters from the country’s 1.3-million-strong Rohingya Muslim minority were barred from voting.
In a statement, it said the “poisoned atmosphere against Muslims in general (and) the Rohingya in particular will not be cleared with an election.”
It warned of “volatile and dangerous conditions” that could lead to violence that would serve the interests of the military. It called on the international community to closely monitor the situation in Myanmar.
Preliminary results showed Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party was headed for a landslide win over the military-backed ruling party.
The government considers Rohingya foreigners even though they have lived in Myanmar for generations. Neither the opposition party nor the military-backed ruling party fielded a single Muslim candidate in Sunday’s vote.
Myanmar’s opposition party spokesman has accused the government’s election commission of intentionally delaying results from Sunday’s vote.
National League for Democracy party spokesman Win Htein told reporters Tuesday that it appears the Union Election Commission wants to “maybe playing a trick or something.”
The commission has released very few results from Sunday’s general election, which the NLD appears to have swept. The party led by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has released its own tallies from four states, which show it to be heading for a massive victory.
The trend was expected to continue in Myanmar’s remaining 10 states, indicating that the military-backed ruling Union Solidarity Development Party is facing a rout.
Win Htein said: “It doesn’t make sense that they are releasing the result little piece by piece. It shouldn’t be like that.”
Many people in the streets of Yangon were sitting on sidewalks, in rickshaws or on front porches reading morning newspapers splashed with Aung San Suu Kyi’s picture, as the nation awaited final confirmation of her election victory.
The front pages were another reflection of the massive changes in this long-repressed country: During the junta’s rule, photos of Suu Kyi (pronounced “soo chee”) were banned from media.
Tuesday’s headline in the Daily Eleven Newspaper read: “NLD is winning as the people are willing to change this country,” a reference to the main opposition party led by Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy.
Than Yin, a 74-year-old sitting on his porch in Yangon, said he was too frail to join the crowds waiting to see Suu Kyi in person, but reading the newspaper was exciting.
“I am old but I want change,” he said.
The White House is congratulating Myanmar on its historic election, but says “more work needs to be done” on its road to democracy.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest says the contest was a “meaningful, competitive election” and an “important step in Burma’s democratic reform process.”
He says the White House is encouraged by signs of broad participation among women, young people and ethnic minorities.
But in a statement to reporters, Earnest noted “structural and systemic flaws” in Myanmar’s system, pointing to laws that appear to be directly aimed at barring Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president.
Earnest says, “There are some imperfections — to put it mildly. There’s also no denying the rather dramatic change we’ve seen inside of Burma.”