YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar’s ruling National League for Democracy party said Monday that it has won enough seats in Parliament to constitute an absolute majority and retain power. It made the claim even though the state Union Election Commission has not yet released full results from Sunday’s election.
“I can now confirm that we’re now securing more than 322 seats,” said Monywa Aung Shin, a spokesperson for the NLD information committee. There are 642 seats in Parliament.
“We were aiming to secure 377 seats in total. But it would be likely more than that,” Monywa Aung Shin said.
There were no reliable official figures available on voter turnout, and the Union Election Commission earlier said that it might take as long as a week to release full results. By 8 p.m. Monday night, it had announced the names of just nine candidates who had won seats in the national Parliament, all belonging to the NLD.
Yway Mal, an independent vote counting service, said the NLD had secured 64 seats and its main opponent, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, had won seven.
The People’s Alliance for Credible Elections — PACE — one of the biggest poll watch organizations in Myanmar, said that in almost one-third of the polling stations it monitored, a small number of people were unable to cast ballots because their names were not on the voting lists.
But the group described election day voting as peaceful and said no major incidents were recorded.
A victory by the NLD had been widely expected, though it had been speculated that its deterioration of relations with ethnic minority-based parties, with whom it had cooperated in the last election in 2015, might cut its totals.
Much of the NLD’s appeal is based on the popularity of its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who became the head of government with the title of state counsellor after the 2015 polls.
Her administration’s record has been mixed at best, with economic growth falling short of expectations and no end to the decades-old armed strife with ethnic minorities seeking greater autonomy.
But among her countrymen, she has managed to retain the appeal she built up during decades of fighting for democracy against the military dictatorships that preceded her.
Outside of Myanmar, her reputation took a dive in response to her failure to defend the human rights of the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority. Her foreign supporters were shocked that she did nothing about the brutal 2017 counterinsurgency campaign of Myanmar’s army that forced about 740,000 Rohingya to flee across the border to neighboring Bangladesh.
But the issue was a matter of little concern to most voters, due to deep-seated prejudice against the Rohingya, whom many consider to be illegal immigrants from South Asia despite their families having lived in Myanmar for generations. Few have citizenship or civil rights, including the right to vote.
Suu Kyi in the past few months has projected a strong image of leadership in state media and in livestreamed social media appearances as Myanmar has battled a surge in coronavirus infections.
At the same time, much traditional campaigning, such as mass rallies, was curbed by restrictions imposed to control the spread of the virus.
More than 90 parties contested the election and 37 million people were eligible to cast ballots, including 5 million first-time voters.
Suu Kyi’s NLD in 2015 romped to a landslide victory, giving it an absolute majority and ending more than five decades of military-directed rule.
Her government drew criticism from rights groups over how it conducted the election, with a focus on the disenfranchisement of the Rohingya minority.
“A core principle of elections under international law is universal and equal suffrage and that is not what took place yesterday,” Ismail Wolff, regional director of Fortify Rights, said in a statement released Monday. “The international community must unequivocally condemn the disenfranchisement of Rohingya and other ethnic nationalities or risk paving the path for future violations.”
“Other concerns include the government’s continued crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, including the arbitrary arrest and detention of civil society actors and activists,” the group said.