Pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has struck an optimistic note about Myanmar’s future, saying this week’s by-elections, which her party claimed to have won overwhelmingly, could be the harbinger of a “new era”.
Her National League for Democracy (NLD) says it won all 44 parliamentary seats it contested, including the one Suu Kyi was standing for.
The veteran activist’s election to political office, if confirmed, would mark the latest change in the country after decades of outright military rule ended last year. It would also be the Nobel laureate’s first foray into parliament.
“This is not so much our triumph as a triumph for people who have decided that they must be involved in the political process in this country,” Suu Kyi said in a victory speech at her party headquarters in Yangon on Monday.
“We hope this will be the beginning of a new era,” said the activist, who was locked up by the former military rulers for most of the past 22 years.
Suu Kyi struck a conciliatory tone towards the other political parties.
“We hope that all parties that took part in the elections will be in a position to co-operate with us in order to create a genuinely democratic atmosphere in our nation,” she said.
The NLD said that it had won all of the seats it contested, based on its own tally, but no official results have yet been announced.
Suu Kyi’s win is “hugely symbolic,” Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, reporting from Yangon, said.
“And while she will have little power, the mere fact that she is there means there will be a lot more international attention on parliament itself and the decisions that it makes.”
He said the success of these elections might mean bigger gains for the opposition in the upcoming 2015 general elections.
More than six million people were eligible to vote on Sunday, with a total of 160 candidates from 17 parties, including six new to the political stage, for 45 seats.
The number of seats at stake is not enough to threaten the military-backed ruling party’s overwhelming majority, secured in full elections in 2010.
The government for the first time invited teams of foreign observers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, European Union and the US, and journalists to witness the elections.
Since taking office a year ago, President Thein Sein has carried out reforms including releasing hundreds of political prisoners, easing media restrictions and welcoming the opposition back into mainstream politics.
The NLD won a landslide election victory in 1990 but the ruling military never allowed it to take office. The party also boycotted the 2010 polls that swept the army’s political proxies to power and were marred by complaints of cheating and intimidation.