Myanmar on Sunday recorded 80 per cent peaceful balloting in its general elections, the Southeast Asian country&’s first openly contested poll in 25 years, marking a major stride in its journey towards democracy.
Polling closed at 4 pm local time, Union Election Commission deputy director Thant Zin Aung said.
Aung san Suu Kyi said that as per early indications “around 80 per cent of voters turned out today”.
Opposition leader and pro-democracy icon Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) is expected to do well, cast her vote at a polling station in Kawhmu township. Attired in traditional sarong and red tee shirt, with flowers in her hair, she had to fight through hordes of media personnel to reach the booth.
For Suu Kyi, 70, Myanmar&’s most popular politician, it was the first time she was voting.
She smiled at reporters after casting her ballot at a polling station near the lakeside villa that served as her prison when the country was under military dictatorship.
Nyan Win, a spokesman for NLD, confirmed it was a first for the Nobel laureate.
Myanmar President Thein Sein, 71, cast his vote in Naypyitaw, at a high school near his home and the 664-seat Parliament. The military-backed Thein Sein has been serving as president since 2011, introducing reforms and opening up the economy, but is viewed as close to the military. The president said he would accept the election result.
Thein Sein belongs to the ruling Union Solidarity Development Party, made up largely of former junta members.
Monitors from the European Union and South Korea were on hand to witness the voting at many places.
Around 30 million voters cast ballots on Sunday to pick from among 6,065 candidates from over 90 parties for the two houses of the national parliament and regional assemblies.
However, 25 per cent of seats are reserved for un-elected military representatives.
People started queuing up at booths well ahead of the polls beginning at 6 am local time.
Around 40,000 specially trained police watched over the polling stations, and most markets were closed because of poll day.
Gen. Than Shwe, who headed the junta for nearly two decades until 2011, cast his vote along with his wife at a village Saturday.
Suu Kyi, who was held under house arrest for 15 years during military rule, is hoping a strong victory at the polls could finally give her NLD political power though she is barred from becoming president.
Under Article 59F of Myanmar&’s constitution, if a person’s children holds citizenship of another country then that person stands disqualified. Suu Kyi&’s two sons hold British citizenship as did her late spouse.
Suu Kyi has announced that if her party triumphs she would amend the constitution to become more powerful than the president.
Around a million Rohingya Muslims have been excluded from voting.
According to international observers, Sunday&’s election went off relatively smoothly.
“So far what we are observing is a procedure that looks as if it is rather reliable; it is not free of flaws or shortcomings, but we didn’t expect that,” said Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, chief observer of the EU election observation mission.