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UPDATE: Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy, is on track to win at least 43 of the 44 contested seats in Burma's historic parliamentary by-elections.
CNN reports that NLD member Thae Da Win Aung says the projected victories are based on the party's own estimates. The official results are expected some time this week.
Suu Kyi, who appears to have won a parliamentary seat in Sunday's elections as well, is now on track to lead a small opposition party in Burma's 664-seat parliament. Although the by-elections only resulted in a small number of seats changing hands, the election itself could be representative of more reform in a country that is still effectively ruled by the military junta that held power for the past 50 years.
As Bloomberg notes, the elections could have another motive for the country's ruling party: ending sanctions that prevent major western companies from investing in the country.
Sunday, April 1: It looks like one of the world's most iconic democracy leaders might finally have a chance to hold elected office. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won a parliamentary seat in a historic election in Burma Sunday, according to her party. The election could mark a change of an era in the country that has been largely ruled by the military for almost half a century, reports the Associated Press.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy announced the news to cheers Sunday, although it may be several days before the vote is confirmed. The party also claims it won at least 10 other seats in an election to fill 45 vacant seats, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The celebration of Suu Kyi’s supporters doesn’t appear to have been marred by widespread claims of irregularities in the voting. Foreign observers were invited at the last minute to monitor the polls so didn’t have enough time to prepare a proper mission. Reuters talks to one that plays down the irregularities, claiming they were mostly due to inexperience with elections. But Time finds lots of voters who faced trouble casting a ballot and talks to an observer who expresses widespread dissatisfaction: “You would think they would cheat more sophisticatedly.”
The United States and European Union have both said the fairness of the race will help them determine whether they will lift widespread economic sanctions against the country, reports the New York Times.
As significant as it would be for the democracy leader who spent 15 years under house arrest to hold political office, it’s also important to note she would be one person in the 664-seat national Parliament that is filled with military officials. Still, the scenes of jubilation in Burma’s streets “would have been unimaginable as recently as a few months ago,” writes the Wall Street Journal.
Ever since a widely criticized election in 2010 that brought in a civilian government dominated by retired military officials, the country’s leaders have surprised the world by instituting a series of reforms. And for some in the opposition, this vote was merely seen as the preparation for the 2015 general election, writes the BBC.
Friday, March 30: Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said Friday that this weekend's historic elections in Burma will not be "genuinely free and fair" but that she nonetheless has no regrets about pressing forward with her campaign for a seat in parliament.
Suu Kyi made her comments while speaking to a gathering of international election observers and journalists outside her residence in Yangon. CNN reports that she used the opportunity to voice her concerns about the integrity of the upcoming election, condemning the voter irregularities and intimidation she says is taking place.
The Guardian notes that the Nobel Peace Prize winner offered somewhat coded remarks concerning her hopes for the future of her country. "We don't have spring in Burma," she said. "We think in terms of the cool season, the hot season and the dry season. So what we hope for is not spring—because spring does not last forever—but we hope for the kind of situation where our people can enjoy the kind of climate that they like best."
Sunday's election in Burma, also known as Myanmar, will fill 45 vacant parliament seats. Reuters points out that the United States and European Union are looking to Suu Kyi for a signal to lift economic sanctions imposed on the resource-rich South Asian country as a response to human rights abuses.
Suu Kyi has spent much of the past two decades under house arrest, a period that, conveniently for the ruling military junta, included the country's last elections in 2010. Her opposition party, the National League for Democracy, boycotted that election—which had been the first in the country in two decades—in large part because she was unable to participate.