With free and peaceful elections, democracy dawns in Myanmar

chinoYANGON – Supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi had already blocked Shwegondaing Road by the time we arrived at the National League for Democracy headquarters in this Myanmar capital. Polling centers across the country had just closed and independent observers from different divisions or provinces were already posting unofficial results on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Loudspeakers were already blaring National League for Democracy (NLD) campaign jingles while people decked in red shirts were singing and dancing before two huge video screens showing music videos.

Cars were marooned in a sea of red, a look of happy exasperation written on the faces of unfortunate passengers and drivers.

I managed to squeeze myself past the dancing supporters and found a spot beneath the loudspeakers, where the people wearing the Mickey and Minnie Mouse mascots were resting.

Above the mayhem, on a the headquarters balcony, NLD patriarch and patron Tin Oo revealed himself as a hush fell over the crowd.

“NLD has just won another seat!”

The crowd of erupts in a deafening roar, already expecting a landslide victory for the NLD. In earlier statements, Suu Kyi had expressed confidence in an NLD victory, saying she will run the government despite constitutional restrictions barring her from becoming head of state.

As of this writing, official election results are still trickling in from different divisions across the country, with Suu Kyi’s NLD party winning 79 out of 87 seats in the lower house of Parliament tallied so far by the UEC. Only eight seats have been won by the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party and other ethnic parties.

Two days after Myanmar’s historic national elections, independent election observers from the European Union and the Asia Network for Free Elections have expressed positive albeit guarded opinion about the conduct of the polls.

This was the first time international observers and international press have been allowed to observe the country’s elections.

Independent observers congratulated Myanmar’s Union Election Commission for the largely free and peaceful process but stopped short of declaring the elections as totally fair and credible. They noted a final assessment will have to be made pending the final results in the coming days.

In a press statement, the EU delegation gave the election process a 95 percent rating noting poll centers opened on time and that both domestic and international observers were allowed access. Representatives from both the ruling party and opposition parties were likewise present inside the polling centers. The delegation went so far to say the process had been very transparent.

Observers from ANFREL also commended the UEC for inviting independent observers and members of the international community to observe the elections. Damaso Magbual, the Filipino head of mission for ANFREL in Myanmar believes the elections points the country in the right direction.

“So far there is a good chance for credible elections and democracy in the country…” Magbual declared in a press conference before international and local media.

The observers, however, noted the disenfranchisement of voters in ethnic areas because of what they consider a tedious and confusing registration process.
ANFREL, for instance, believes around half a million voters, mostly from the ethnic areas were excluded from casting their votes.

“The large number of people not included in the voting is the most significant shortcoming of this election,” Magbual added.

After the elections, the observers will be releasing their recommendations to streamline and improve the electoral process in the country.

[This article originally appeared in GMA News Online. It was written by Chino Gaston while on fieldwork for the 2015 Fellowship.]