Burma poll: Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD sweeps by-elections

Aung San Suu Kyi: "We hope that this will be the beginning of a new era"

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party has won a landslide victory in by-elections, local election officials have confirmed.

With partial results announced, the National League for Democracy (NLD) won at least 40 of the 45 seats being contested.

Ms Suu Kyi said she hoped the polls marked the start of a new era in Burma.

But the parliament remains dominated by the military and its allies, who hold the vast majority of the 664 seats.

As the results started to come in from Sunday's poll, Ms Suu Kyi called the vote a "triumph of the people" and said the goal now was reconciliation with other parties.

The United States said the vote was an important step in Burma's "democratic transition".

'Free and fair'

The by-elections were being held to fill 45 parliamentary seats left vacant by the appointment of ministers after the polls that formally ended military rule in November 2010.

At the scene

After an arduous campaign criss-crossing the country, doctors say Aung San Suu Kyi is exhausted.

But her efforts have paid off. She seems to have won her own seat by a handsome margin and has helped to secure victory for a number of her colleagues.

Now she must muster her resources to face a future in a parliament still dominated by the military.

Aung San Suu Kyi has promised to use her voice to push for further reforms.

She'll also need to continue to nurture her relationship with Burma's President Thein Sein. Both have taken big risks to get to this stage.

Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD was competing in its first elections since 1990, after boycotting the 2010 polls. It was one of 17 opposition parties that took part.

The European Union's Trade Commissioner, Karel De Gucht, told the BBC that that this result could lead to the EU easing sanctions on Burma.

"Her [Suu Kyi's] party has won the larger part of the seats, that I think is an indication that the elections have been free and fair and that the result reflects the will of the voters," he said.

Addressing a crowd of supporters outside NLD headquarters in Rangoon, Burma's commercial capital, Ms Suu Kyi said: "We hope that all other parties that took part in the elections will be in a position to co-operate with us to create a genuinely democratic atmosphere in our nation."

Democratic reform

Apart from winning her own seat, Ms Suu Kyi appears to have helped a number of her colleagues to victory, correspondents say.

Burma's by-elections

A polling station in Rangoon
  • A total of 45 seats contested by 176 candidates from 17 parties, with eight independents
  • Lower House has 440 seats (330 elected), the Upper House 224 seats (168 elected) and the regional assemblies 14
  • Before this election, the army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party dominated with 348 seats; serving soldiers had 166
  • By-elections fill vacancies of those elected in 2010 polls who became ministers and deputy ministers

The NLD appears to have won some seats in the remote capital, Nay Pyi Taw.

Correspondents say that the ruling party could be badly shaken by its losses, particularly as these constituencies are populated by large numbers of civil servants.

But even if the NLD wins most of the seats, the army and its proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) will still hold about 80% of seats in parliament.

Ms Suu Kyi - who spent years under house arrest after her party won polls in 1990 but was not allowed to take power - has promised to use her voice to continue to push for further reform.

Speaking in Cambodia ahead of an Asean summit, Burma's Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin said the polls had been "free, fair and transparent".

During the campaign, foreign journalists and international observers were given the widest access to the former military-ruled nation for years.

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