YANGON – Myanmar President Thein Sein congratulated democratic champion Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday, as her party appeared to have trounced the ruling camp in the first free election in 25 years and inched toward an absolute majority in parliament.
Thein Sein reiterated that the government would accept the results of the election and agreed to Suu Kyi’s request to hold reconciliation talks soon, although the two are still to agree on the time and location of the negotiations.
Suu Kyi’s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) has won over 80 percent of the seats declared so far in the lower house and is well ahead in the upper house and regional assemblies.
If the final results confirm the trend, Suu Kyi’s triumph will sweep out an old guard of former generals that has run Myanmar since the junta handed over power to Thein Sein’s semi-civilian government in 2011.
“Congratulations … to the chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi and her party for gathering the support of the people,” read a statement posted on the Facebook page of the presidential spokesman.
“The government will respect and follow the people’s choice and decision, and work on transferring power peacefully according to the timetable,” said the statement, adding that the president would work with “all other people” to ensure stability in the post-election period.
Suu Kyi has also invited the powerful army chief to hold reconciliation talks, but he has yet to respond to the letter.
The armed forces continue to wield considerable power in Myanmar’s political institutions, under a constitution drafted before the end of nearly 50 years of rule. It is unclear how Suu Kyi and the generals will work together.
“It is very important for the dignity of the country and to bring peace of mind to the people,” Suu Kyi said in the letter.
Relations between Suu Kyi and armed forces chief Min Aung Hlaing are said to be strained.
One of the biggest sources of tension between Suu Kyi and the military is a clause in the constitution barring her from the presidency because her children are foreign nationals.
Few doubt the military inserted the clause to rule her out.
While her letters seek conciliation, Suu Kyi has become increasingly defiant on the presidential clause as the scale of her victory has become apparent.
She has made it clear she will run the country regardless of who the NLD elects as president and described the constitution as “very silly.”
The NLD has said it is on course for over 250 seats in the lower house, well above the 221 needed to control the chamber. Reuters was not able to independently verify the party’s estimates of its own performance.
The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), created by the junta and led by retired soldiers, has conceded defeat in a poll that was a major milestone on Myanmar’s rocky path from dictatorship to democracy.
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