Aung San Suu Kyi makes election debut in Myanmar
Myanmar: Myanmar holds elections Sunday seen as a key test of the
government's commitment to reforms, with opposition leader Aung San Suu
Kyi standing for a seat in parliament for the first time. A victory for
Suu Kyi would cap a remarkable transformation for the 66-year-old icon
of the pro-democracy movement, who spent most of the past 22 years
locked up by the generals who ruled the country for decades.
Her National League for Democracy (NLD) party swept to a landslide
election victory in 1990 but the junta never recognised the result.
Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize the following year, was not a
candidate herself on that occasion because she was under house arrest.
Her party will contest 44 of the 45 seats at stake in Sunday's vote
-- not enough to threaten the ruling party's majority, but a seat in
parliament would give the opposition leader a chance to shape
legislation for the first time.
Observers say the regime wants the pro-democracy leader to win a
place in parliament to burnish its reform credentials and smooth the way
for an easing of Western sanctions.
A 2010 vote, won by the military's political proxies, was marred by
widespread complaints of cheating and the exclusion of Suu Kyi, who was
released from seven straight years of house arrest shortly afterwards.
In the run up to this Sunday's by-elections, the NLD complained about
irregularities, including alleged intimidation of candidates and the
appearance of the names of some dead people on the electoral roll.
“I don't think we can consider it a genuinely free and fair
election,” the democracy icon told a news conference on Friday.
She said the irregularities were “really beyond what is acceptable
for a democratic election” but stopped short of announcing a boycott.
“We are determined to go forward because we think that this is what
our people want,” Suu Kyi said.
A gruelling schedule of rallies and speeches has taken its toll on
the health of the opposition leader, who cancelled campaigning this week
after she fell ill and was put on a drip during a visit to the south.
NLD spokesman Nyan Win Saturday said Suu Kyi was “fine” as she
travelled to her rural constituency of Kawhmu, about two hours drive
from Yangon, where small groups of people gathered to cheer her arrival.