YANGON, Myanmar (MindaNews/09 November) — Supporters of Myanmar’s main opposition National League for Democracy have started celebrating over an expected victory in the Nov. 8 parliamentary elections that could catapult the party to power 25 years after being denied it by the military.
Millions of Myanmar voters trooped to the polls Sunday in the country’s first ever elections in 25 years held under increased democratic circumstances.
Several estimates by Yangon-based analysts placed the turnout at as much as 80 percent of over 30 million voters.
On Monday morning, Nov. 9, U Shwe Mann of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party conceded defeat to an NLD bet in Phyu township of Bago region.
Shwe Mann, a former official of the military junta, was gunning for a seat in the Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House).
His concession message was posted in his official Facebook account.
Shwe Mann is currently Speaker of the Pyithu Hluttaw and used to head the ruling party.
A senior journalist in Yangon said that based on the independent monitoring of private news organizations, the defeat of Shwe Mann could be symptomatic of the looming political sweep against the USDP in other townships.
A sampling of eight polling stations monitored by the Yangon-based 7 Day News in the capital Naypyidaw showed the USDP and NLD fighting neck on neck for votes.
Naypyidaw is the traditional bastion of the USDP where most of the military officials live.
As of Nov. 9, the first official results from the Union Election Commission showed the NLD taking 12 Lower House seats in Yangon.
The opposition’s jubilation started late Sunday afternoon outside the NLD headquarters along Shwegondaing Road, a major Yangon thoroughfare.
Starting with about a thousand mostly youth volunteers, the gathering ballooned into more than five thousand by early evening, at about the time initial results started trickling in from the party’s own monitors at every polling station.
As the crowd thickened, the road was eventually blocked for vehicular traffic.
Those who came were young and old, either through their cars or on foot. Many of those who came by car were families.
The crowd danced to the pop beat of the NLD’s campaign jingles, waving the party’s emblem of white star and yellow fighting peacock set against a red backdrop.
Red thunder sticks also glistened in the streets where many fathers carried children on their shoulders.
People also sing along with the music that blared up to several hundred feet away.
Children danced along the Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse mascots that graced the spontaneous street festival by the evening.
The crowd braved a drizzle as volunteers distributed food, bottled water and candies.
While the crowd waited for word about the results, a video of Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi campaigning for the NLD was shown on two giant screens.
From time to time, feed from state television carrying live coverage of the canvass in Yangon is also shown in the screens.
Around 7pm (8:30pm in the Philippines), the crowd fell silent and listened with rapt attention as NLD campaign patron U Tin Oo emerged from a third-storey balcony to announce that based on final but unofficial results, the NLD has won all three seats in a township in Bago region.
This sent the crowd roaring in more jubilation as many shed tears.
It was the very first sign of the NLD’S poll victory.
“It is so sweet to hear the announcement,” a teary eyed Kyaw said.
“This is like the beginnings of EDSA in 1986,” said Filipino journalist Chino Gaston who is observing the poll process for the Bangkok-based Southeast Asian Press Alliance.
Earlier, Suu Kyi had predicted a major victory for the NLD which she leads.
NLD is contesting for some 490 seats in the 664-seat bicameral national legislature of which a fourth are reserved for military representatives. (Ryan Rosauro/Fellow, SEAPA)
[This article originally appeared in Mindanews. It was written by Ryan Rosauro while on fieldwork for the 2015 Fellowship.]