Suu Kyi supporters claim win in historic Burma election

 

Aung San Suu Kyi's party claimed today she has won a seat in Burma's parliament after a landmark election, setting the stage for the pro-democracy leader to hold public office for the first time.

The victory, if confirmed, marks a major milestone in the south-east Asian nation, where the military has ruled almost exclusively for half a century and where the government is now seeking legitimacy and a lifting of Western sanctions.

The victory claim was displayed on a digital signboard above the opposition National League for Democracy's headquarters in Burma's main city, Rangoon.

Earlier, the party said in unofficial figures that Ms Suu Kyi was ahead with 65% of the vote in 82 of her constituency's 129 polling stations.

Victory would mark the biggest prize of Ms Suu Kyi's political career, and a spectacular reversal of fortune for the 66-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate who the former junta had kept imprisoned in her home for the better part of two decades.

“We won! We won!” her supporters chanted while clapping, dancing, waving red party flags and gesturing with thumbs-up and V for victory signs.

The results must be confirmed by the official electoral commission, however, which has yet to release any outcome and may not make an official declaration for days.

The victory claim came despite allegations by her National League for Democracy party that “rampant irregularities” had taken place on voting day.

Party spokesman Nyan Win said that by midday alone, the party had filed more than 50 complaints to the Election Commission. He said most alleged violations concerned waxed ballot papers that made it difficult to mark votes. There were also ballot cards that lacked the Election Commission's seal, which would render them invalid.

Today's by-election was called to fill just 45 vacant seats in Burma's 664-seat national parliament and will not change the balance of power in a new government that is nominally civilian but still heavily controlled by retired generals.

Ms Suu Kyi and other opposition candidates would have almost no say even if they win all the seats they are contesting.

But her candidacy has resurrected hope among Burma's downtrodden masses, who have grown up for generations under strict military rule. If Ms Suu Kyi takes office as expected, it would symbolise a giant leap towards national reconciliation.

AP

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