Download Burma is celebrating Aung San Suu Kyi’s win in last weekend’s by-elections.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won 43 out of 45 seats contested.
But only around six per cent of parliamentary seats were up for grabs – leaving the military still in control.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations marked the event by calling for international sanctions on Burma to be lifted, to help the democratic process.
The United States has announced it will further ease sanctions against Burma, while European Union leaders had said earlier that they would consider taking similar steps.
Since the political transition began in 2010, Burma’s government has impressed observers with the pace of change – it’s released many political prisoners and relaxed media restrictions.
But the real test comes now – as Suu Kyi’s small minority tries to promote deeper reforms in Parliament.
As Nay Thwin reports, the hopes of Burma’s people are now higher than ever.
A group of women are clapping, singing and dancing under the poor light in Pago, a town on the outskirts of Rangoon.
Like many places in Burma, electricity is limited here.
But these people don’t need anything to light themselves up.
“I’m very happy, very happy! So happy I missed my meal after I learnt that we won!”
“I’m very happy! I want to bring out into the open all the suffering we kept hidden in our thoughts for two decades!”
State television announced that National League for Democracy won a landslide victory – 43 out of 45 seats in Parliament.
One seat was won by the military-backed USDP party and another by the ethnic Shan Party.
Speaking to a cheering crowd at the NLD’s Rangoon headquarters, Suu Kyi thanked all her supporters and declared it was time for change.
“We hope this will be the beginning of a new era with more emphasis on the role of the people in the everyday politics of the country. We also hope that we will be able to go further along the road towards national reconciliation. We will welcome all parties who wish to join us in the process of bringing peace and prosperity to our country.”
Four young NLD candidates also won seats in the capital – where Burma’s military generals all live.
They include Zayar Thar, the high-profile young hip-hop star and founder of the underground youth activist group, Generation Wave.
Suu Kyi beat two rival candidates in her seat of Kawhmu, a suburb on the outskirts of the capital.
One of her rivals came from the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party. The USDP won a solid majority in 2010 general election.
In a rare phone interview, USDP General Secretary Htay Oo says his party is ready to work with the NLD.
“It is obvious that people voted for whom they prefer. We have nothing to say about NLD victory except that we hope for more cooperation in the future. We are always ready to work with any party for the betterment of our people.”
Suu Kyi’s NLD was competing in its first elections since 1990. That year, the party won a landslide national victory.
But the army ignored the result, and put Suu Kyi under house arrest for years.
Suu Kyi’s party boycotted the 2010 polls, and the USDP claimed victory.
Now these by-elections are another NLD landslide. But the the army and USDP still hold about 80 percent of parliamentary seats.
Thai bureau chief of media outlet Democractic Voice of Burma, Toe Zaw Latt, says this win is just a first step.
“What is significant is the Burmese parliament has no real opposition. Perhaps the house speaker Thura Shwe Mann and his group are taking on something of the opposition’s job. I think if Daw Aung San Suu Kyi can combine with these groups, or take on the role of an opposition directly, that will be very significant.”
Suu Kyi has been calling for constitutional amendments in many of her speeches.
The constitution guarantees the military a central role in national politics, including 25 percent of all seats in parliament.
But recently appointed vice-senior general Min Aung Hlaing says the military will defend its role. He says the military has built the country up to to be a modern, developed democracy.
Min Aung Hlaing is also the army’s commander-in-chief – which makes him a key stakeholder in Burma’s emerging democracy.
Under the 2008 Constitution, the commander-in-chief can assume executive power if a national emergency is declared – and it’s the army who declares it.
Deputy Director of Burmese think tank the Vahu Development Institute, Aung Naing Oo, says the next steps will be challenging.
“What is happening now is Daw Aung San Suu Kyi wants constitutional amendments, but the army will oppose this at this stage. It is clear that both side will oppose each either at this point. The only way that evolutionary change is possible is to persuade the army representatives in Parliament, or the army chief of staff. I hope Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the army chief meet in the very near future. Otherwise the task of amending the constitution will remain merely a dream, and political change in our country won’t be tackled in an effective way.”
There’s a long way to go – but right now, the optimism of Burma’s citizens is on the rise.
01) up for grabs: diperebutkan
02) marked : menandai
03) Burmese spring: kebangkitan rakyat Burma
04) headquarters: markas besar
05) landslide victory: menang telak
06) betterment: peningkatan/perbaikan
07) prosperity: kemakmuran
08) house arrest: tahanan rumah
09) merely: hanya/sekedar, semata-mata
10) persuade: membujuk/menyakinkan
01) Who won the by-elections and how many seats did the party win?
02) How did the the Burmese people and international community respond to the results of these elections?
03) How many seats did the USDP win and what did they say about the winning party?
04) What did Aung San Suu Kyi say to all her supporters at her party's headquarters and how many other young NLD candidates won a seat in the capital?
05) According toe Aung Naing Oo, what are the challenges that AUng San Suu KYi will face after the elections?