Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party on Friday secured a historic majority in Myanmar’s parliament, making it possible for them to form the Southeast Asian country’s first truly civilian government in more than half-a-century.
With the tally still being counted, the Election Commission said that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won 21 additional seats — pushing it over the threshold of 329 seats needed for a majority in the 664-member, two-house Parliament.
The party with a combined parliamentary majority is able to select the next president, who can then name a Cabinet and form a new government.
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Suu Kyi’s victory had been widely expected, but few anticipated a landslide of such dramatic proportions. The results have shown a resounding rejection of military rule in Myanmar, which has been under army control for half a century.
Elections were not held in seven constituencies, meaning a simple majority could be reached at 329 seats. The NLD has officially won 238 seats in the lower house — which means it now will have the power to pass bills — and 110 in the upper house, for a total of 348.
In comparison, the ruling pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Party has won 40 seats, according to the latest results Friday afternoon.
The military automatically receives 25 percent of the seats in each house under the constitution.
While the army has not conceded defeat for the ruling USDP party, it has acknowledged the massive success of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in Sunday’s election, and pledged it will respect the final results. Those results seem virtually certain to allow the opposition to take over the government.
The office of army commander Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said the military will hold talks with Suu Kyi after the election results are complete. Suu Kyi issued an invitation on Wednesday for a meeting with the commander, along with President Thein Sein and House Speaker Shwe Mann.
While an NLD majority assures it of being able to elect the president, Suu Kyi remains barred from the highest office by a constitutional provision inserted by the military before it transferred power to Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government in 2011.
Suu Kyi has declared, however, that she will become the country’s de facto leader, acting “above the president” if her party forms the next government, and that the new president will be a figurehead.
Myanmar’s military, which took power in a 1962 coup and brutally suppressed several pro-democracy uprisings during its rule, gave way to Thein Sein’s nominally civilian elected government in 2011 — with strings attached.
It installed retired senior officers in the ruling party to fill Cabinet posts and gave itself key powers in the constitution, including control of several powerful ministries and a quarter of the seats in both houses of Parliament. In a state of emergency, a special military-led body can even assume state powers. Another provision bars Suu Kyi from the presidency because her sons hold foreign citizenship.
While Myanmar’s people voted overwhelmingly Sunday to remove the military-backed ruling party from power, it’s clear that the army’s involvement in politics won’t end, and the NLD will need to convince it to cooperate.