Myanmar counts ballots after Suu Kyi’s day of destiny

YANGON :  Vote counting in Myanmar’s landmark election was well underway today following a massive turnout that could see Aung San Suu Kyi’s party catapulted to power and the end of decades of military control.
Millions had queued the previous day to cast their ballots in an event heavy with history and filled with emotion.
As the count began in earnest, early indications were of an “80 per cent” turnout, according to Union Election Commission deputy director Thant Zin Aung — a figure the opposition believe favours their bid for a majority.
Thousands of supporters — many decked out in the red of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) — gathered outside the party’s Yangon headquarters in the hope of some indication of victory from Suu Kyi.
But the woman known affectionately as “The Lady” did not appear.
Instead NLD official Tin Oo read a message from the party’s figurehead.
“I urge you to wait for the result from your own homes,” he said, adding: “When the result comes out, I want you to accept it calmly.”
Chanting “Amay (Mother) Suu must win, NLD must win!”, the crowd began to thin as the evening wore on with no result in sight.
More than 30 million people were eligible to vote in Myanmar’s freest election for a generation.
The NLD believes a fair vote will power it into government after a decades-long struggle against army dictatorship.
But Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi is barred from the presidency by the army-scripted constitution and the NLD faces an uphill struggle because a quarter of seats are still reserved for the military.
In the capital Naypyidaw, President Thein Sein, himself a one-time top-ranking junta general, smiled for the cameras and held up his little finger, stained with purple ink, after voting.
His army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is the main obstacle to an NLD victory, and needs only around a third of seats to join up with the military bloc to choose the president.
Many voters remain nervous about how the powerful army will react if it loses, with concerns over the fraud that riddled previous elections.
But after casting his vote in the capital, Myanmar’s powerful army chief said his troops would respect the voice of the electorate. (AGENCIES)

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