YANGON, Myanmar – Voices rang out in unison Monday, as hundreds of jubilant people gathered outside the opposition party headquarters where images of Aung San Suu Kyi were being shown on large-screen TVs. Results from Myanmar’s historic election were still not final, but opposition leaders were convinced of success and their supporters were celebrating.
“She’s the people’s leader who the whole world knows,” the crowds sang. “Write your own history in your hearts for our future so the dictatorship will end. Go, go, go away dictatorship.”
From street vendors to intellectuals to former political prisoners who suffered torture and imprisonment, pro-democracy supporterswere jubilant at the idea of a Suu Kyi victory, and the weakening of a military-backed regime in a country where iron-fisted generals have held sway for half a century.
Even some pro-government voters hailed Sunday’s general election, if only in hopes that a new government would bring improvement to their lives in one of the world’s most impoverished nations. Celebrations were occurring across the country, but enthusiasm probably ran highest around the headquarters of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in Yangon, where her spokesmen said the party was headed for a landslide victory. Final official results are not expected until Tuesday at the earliest.
Even some foreign tourists got caught up in the atmosphere, posing for photographs after donning T-shirts and headbands with the NLD’s “fighting peacock” logo.
“I think Mother Suu will win. She must win,” said Thet Paing Oo, a 24-year-old fruit seller, referring to the leader with an affectionate term that many people here use. “There will be more freedom in our country if the NLD wins. Our country will be better. Our lives will be better.”
While not without problems, the election appeared to have passed generally freely.
“This election has given the people an opportunity to voice their will, and the groundswell of people’s support provides some sense of solace for the people who have suffered and made sacrifices for the past 30 years,” said Ko Ko Gyi, a former student leader and one of thousands of people imprisoned during the military’s rule.
Journalists and monitors were even given access to voting on a vast military base in Naypyitaw, the capital city that is home to most military leaders and top civil servants. Even in Naypyitaw, some supporters of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party said they hoped the election would bring change and a better future.
A soldier’s wife, 31-year-old Lu Ti, said she liked both current President Thein Sein and Suu Kyi, who was “also good in her own way.”
Political analyst Yan Myo Thein said he was “very happy with the election outcome,” adding that he now hoped for a smooth transfer of power. The junta annulled the results after Suu Kyi swept the polls in 1990.
The military relinquished formal power in 2011 when Thein Sein, who chairs the USDP, began some tentative reforms. But many in Myanmar view him as a puppet of the still-powerful generals.
Even with a commanding victory, the NLD will have its work cut out in Parliament, where 25 per cent of seats are reserved for the military. Suu Kyi herself cannot become president since a constitutional amendment bars anyone with a foreign spouse or husband from holding the position. Suu Kyi’s late husband was British, as are her two sons.
Suu Kyi has insisted, though, that the constitution will not keep her down if the NLD wins, saying she will “be above the president.”
Associated Press writer Denis D. Gray and former AP correspondent Aye Aye Win contributed to this report.