Myanmar opposition consolidates early lead in landmark elections

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Myanmar’s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) consolidated its lead in the weekend’s historic elections Tuesday as observers urged the authorities to hasten the vote count to avoid any suspicion of fraud.

The NLD, led by Aung Sang Suu Kyi, had won 79 of 87 seats in the more powerful lower house of parliament as of 12 pm (0530 GMT) Tuesday, after the country’s first openly contested elections for 25 years.

The party was also taking a majority of seats in the country’s 14 regional parliaments, according to the Union Election Commission (UEC).

USDP had only won 5 seats in the national lower house as of Tuesday morning, the commission said.

The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) “lost in all the constituencies in the Ayeyawaddy Division,” its acting leader Htay Oo said Monday. He added that Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD had swept the division, formerly seen as a USDP stronghold.

NLD supporters were seen celebrating, while full results were not expected for several days.

A regional election observer organization said the election had “exceeded expectations,” but urged officials not to delay the results.

The UEC should release the final counts as soon as possible to avoid suspicion of foul play, the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) said in a press conference early Tuesday.

The European Union praised the election as “well-run and competitive” but warned that the current system “does not fully provide for the conduct of genuine elections.”

The 25 per cent of seats reserved for the military remained an obstacle for democracy, said Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, chief of the EU observation mission, at a press conference Tuesday.

The NLD boycotted the previous elections in 2010 over a clause in the constitution that bars Suu Kyi from becoming president, as her sons are British.

In the vote before that, in 1990, the NLD won a solid majority, but the result was ignored by the military government, which has been in power in different forms since 1962.

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