Moral Low Ground

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“Triumph of the People”: Aung San Suu Kyi, NLD Win Burma Parliamentary Elections in Historic Landslide

Victorious! (Photo: Htoo Tay Zar)

In an historic day for Burma, former political prisoner and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) won a monumental landslide victory in Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

The Guardian and the Associated Press report throngs of jubilant flag-waving supporters, many dressed in red and chanting her name, greeted the victorious Suu Kyi as her motorcade arrived at NLD headquarters in Yangon.

Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for nearly 22 years because the ruling military junta would not accept the outcome of 1990 elections in which the NDL received 59% of the vote, hailed “the beginning of a new era” in Burmese politics. She also called the historic election “a triumph of the people.”

“We hope this will be the beginning of a new era,” she said on Monday after the country’s Election Commission confirmed that the NDL won 40 out of 45 parliamentary seats. “What is important now is not how many seats we may have won, but that… the people participated in the democratic process. We invite all parties who wish to bring peace and prosperity to our country [to work together].

The NDL contested 44 out of the 45 open seats in Burma’s 664-seat parliament. Fully 25% of parliamentary seats are reserved for the military, which has ruled the impoverished southeast Asian nation for nearly half a century. Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her non-violent, pro-democracy work, took aim at the military’s 25% parliamentary seat stranglehold, announcing that her first legislative priority will be constitutional reform– including abolishing the armed forces’ parliamentary allotment.

The military must remember that “the future of this country is their future,” Suu Kyi said, “and that reform in this country means reform for them as well.”

The fact that the junta, which began loosening its iron grip on the impoverished country of 60 million people in 2010, even allowed such an outcome is a stunning development of historic proportions. Not too long ago, Burma– which the junta re-named Myanmar– was one of the world’s most repressive countries. But since 2010, the year Suu Kyi was released, the military rulers ceded some power to civilians, released many political prisoners and sat down to sign cease-fires with anti-junta rebels. Individual freedoms have also been increasing.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hailed the vote and congratulated the country for its democratic achievement.

“Even the most repressive regimes can reform, and even the most closed societies can open,” she said.

All was not perfect with Sunday’s elections, however, with Suu Kyi herself claiming her campaign was plagued with “rampant irregularities.”

Still, with victories in 44 of 45 contested elections, it will be hard for anyone to find too much fault with the junta’s handling of the vote.

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