NLD Claims Aung San Suu Kyi Election Win

Posted April 1st, 2012 at 1:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Supporters of Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent most of the past two decades under military-ordered house arrest, say she won a seat Sunday in Burma's lower house of parliament.

The Nobel laureate's National League for Democracy party announced the victory shortly after polls closed in Burma's by-elections late Sunday, saying she won in a rice-farming region south of Rangoon (Kawhmu), by soundly defeating two rival candidates. Witnesses say hundreds of supporters erupted in celebration as the win was announced in Rangoon.

If confirmed, the victory would mark a major milestone in the Southeast Asian nation, which languished under military rule for nearly half a century until a new nominally civilian government came to power last year.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking from Istanbul, voiced cautious optimism.

“I would like to say a few words about Burma. I've been following today's parliamentary elections with great interest. While the results have not yet been announced, the United States congratulates the people who participated, many for the first time, in the campaign and election process. We are committed to supporting these reform efforts.

The NLD ran candidates in 45 districts, and outcomes elsewhere were not available late Sunday. It was not immediately clear when the government would announce official tallies.

Voting took place under the watch of a small number of observers from the European Union and a regional grouping of Southeast Asian nations. However, the monitors were only given days to prepare for their mission, and some have said they consider themselves watchers rather than monitors.

U.S. and European Union authorities have hinted that they would consider lifting some economic sanctions imposed on the former military regime, if Sunday's polls are determined to be free and fair. Those sanctions were levied during the past two decades in response to widespread human right abuses under military rule.

Vote outcomes are widely seen as needing the blessing of Aung San Suu Kyi to be consider free and fair. She has complained in recent days of pre-election irregularities, including allegations Sunday that some ballot papers had been covered in wax, which could be rubbed off later to change the votes. The NLD also complained of voter intimidation, but last week Aung San Suu Kyi said the polls are still significant.

The NLD won a landslide victory in 1990 general elections. But military leaders at the time refused to relinquish power and the victors were refused entry into parliament.