Myanmar’s ruling party says it has won enough seats in parliament to form the next government, after reporting a lead based on its unofficial count of votes from the country’s second general election since the end of strict military rule.
Party spokesman Myo Nyunt told Reuters internal reports showed the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, had won the 322 seats in parliament needed, though no official results had been announced by the election commission.
“We thank the people,” he said. “For the people, for the party, this is such an encouraging election result.”
The Election Commission is expected to announce official results later on Monday.
Despite expressing their disappointment with the ruling party’s record, many say they remain committed to the NLD, fuelled by fears of a return to military rule.
— John Liu (@JohnLiuNN) November 8, 2020
Sunday’s election was seen as a referendum on the fledgling democratic government led by Suu Kyi and the NLD, which remains hugely popular at home but has seen its reputation collapse overseas amid allegations of genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
Up for grabs in the election are 315 seats in the 425-member lower house and 161 seats in the 217-seat upper house of parliament.
The NLD came to power after a 2015 landslide in which it won a total of 390 seats, a benchmark Myo Nyunt said it expected to exceed, according to data compiled from reports by party agents at polling stations across the country.
A spokesman for the second biggest party, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) could not immediately be reached for comment.
The military, which ruled Myanmar for nearly 50 years until it began withdrawing from civilian politics in 2011, controls a quarter of seats in both houses of parliament, under a constitution it drew up and which Suu Kyi and her allies want to amend.
The NLD had been expected to win but with a smaller margin following the emergence of new parties and ethnic minority parties gaining support in some regions.
In contrast to the wave of optimism that greeted the NLD’s landslide win in 2015, Myanmar went into this election under a cloud of a surging COVID-19 outbreak, economic hardship and escalating ethnic conflicts.
Fears of the virus appeared not to dampen Sunday’s turnout among the 37 million registered voters.
But more than a million people across the country were unable to vote after polls were cancelled due to insurgencies.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, a Muslim minority confined to camps and villages in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, most without citizenship, were also unable to vote.
The Democracy and Human Rights Party, a Rohingya party, said in a statement it was “utterly disappointed” that its people had been disenfranchised.
Most Rohingya are not considered Myanmar citizens but migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh even though many can trace family roots back many generations.