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Myanmar election

Suu Kyi's NLD confirms 396 seats, surpassing 2015 landslide victory

Ruling party's popularity proves decisive as military-linked group cries foul

Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy proved her extraordinary popularity in the Nov. 8 election. (Source photos by Yuichi Nitta and Reuters)

YANGON -- Myanmar's election commission on Saturday announced the final results of the country's general election, confirming the ruling National League for Democracy won 396 out of 476 seats. The NLD, headed by the nation's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, outperformed its landslide victory in 2015, when it won 390 seats.

The ruling party took more than 83% of the seats. Meanwhile, 11 ethnic parties won a total of 47 seats. The military-affiliated Union Solidarity and Development Party garnered just 33.

Many welcomed the news. "All eight members of my family voted for the NLD," said a 42-year-old Yangon street vendor who gave the name Haron on Friday. "It became far better compared to the previous government. We see less harassment [of vendors] by the authorities."

Taxi driver Phyoe Min Zaw, 35, said, "I'm very happy to know that the NLD led by Mother Suu won the election."

Not everyone is satisfied, however.

The Mandalay branch of the USDP on Thursday repeated party claims that the election body was "biased." On Wednesday, the party had said: "USDP demands the election commission hold a new election again, cooperating with the military, so the election will be free, fair and unbiased."

This was despite Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the head of the military, saying on Sunday, the day of the elections: "I will accept the results of the elections. We can't deny it."

A military spokesperson on Thursday told Nikkei Asia that the USDP's position had nothing to do with the armed forces, and that there had been no consultations between them. The representative reiterated, "The commander in chief always says that [the military] will accept the election result if it is free and fair," but would not comment on whether the military felt that was indeed the case.

Parliament will hold a joint session early next year to choose the president. Under the constitution, Suu Kyi will not be allowed to become president, since her children have foreign citizenship. She will likely continue to serve as state counselor, a special post created for her.

Elections were also held for regional parliaments, but ethnic parties are doing poorly in that arena, too. Regional parliaments choose their own chief minister, but it appears no state will be headed by a person from an ethnic group.

Despite a surge of COVID-19 cases, voter turnout was higher than expected. While Suu Kyi has come under fire internationally in recent years over the Rohingya crisis -- notably, during an appearance at the International Court of Justice last year to defend Myanmar against a charge of genocide -- the election shows she still enjoys strong support inside the country.

In her second term, Suu Kyi and her party will push for peace talks with ethnic groups to end the decadeslong civil war. Another item will be to continue pushing for constitutional reform, still a challenge considering the military's power to veto any proposed changes.

Suu Kyi failed to make meaningful progress in either of these areas during her first term, but she is expected to leverage her strong support to keep pushing for change.

For consecutive evenings after voting concluded on Nov. 8, Yangon residents celebrated at NLD headquarters. "The NLD is the best party for us," one supporter said. "We came here to show our support and love for Mother Suu."

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