The powerful army chief of Myanmar Min Aung Hlaing joined the President Thein Sein in congratulating Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition after it swept the national elections in a landslide victory. On Wednesday the army chief and President promised a smooth transition of power.
The party trounced the ruling camp in the first free election in 25 years and closed in on an absolute majority in the parliament. The country was dominated by the military through direct junta rule since 2011, a quasi-civilian government run by its allies.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) is on the verge of tipping the balance of power after capturing more than 85 percent of seats declared so far from Sunday’s election – a huge stride in Myanmar’s long democracy struggle. The NLD has swept up 256 seats, just over 70 short of an outright majority.
In a statement on Facebook President Thein Sein, whose government has steered recent reforms, said “we would like to congratulate” Suu Kyi for “winning the people’s approval.”
“As the government, we will respect and obey the election results and transfer power peacefully” he said.
Suu Kyi on Tuesday called for national reconciliation talks with the powerful army chief Min Aung Hlaing and President Thein Sein, stressing the need for a peaceful transition. Both men agreed to discussions.
The army chief also taking to Facebook to congratulate Suu Kyi on “winning a majority.”
Their comments may go some way to relieving the fears of many NLD supporters who remain deeply suspicious of the army and its political allies, after past crackdowns on democracy movements that have left hundreds dead and thousands jailed .
Suu Kyi’s party won a 1990 election by a landslide only for the army to ignore the result and tighten its grip on power.
Her path to power is blocked by an army-scripted 2008 constitution that bars anyone with foreign children – or husband – from the presidency.
Suu Kyi’s sons are British as was her late husband – who died in Britain while she was under house arrest in Myanmar.
However, Suu Kyi has declared that she will become the country’s de facto leader, acting “above the president,” if her party forms the next government.
“I make all the decisions because I’m the leader of the winning party. And the president will be one whom we will choose just in order to meet the requirements of the constitution,” she said in an interview given to a news channel.
The army is also gifted 25 percent of parliamentary seats uncontested, as well as control of Myanmar’s security apparatus – meaning it will retain immense power despite the huge support for the NLD.
While Myanmar’s people voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to remove the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development 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.