Myanmar holds landmark votes

April 1st, 2012 - 8:54 am ICT by IANS  

Yangon, April 1 (IANS) Polling began Sunday in Myanmar’s by-elections that promise to be the most open contest in decades, with Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi among those standing.

Standing this time for a lower house seat in the Kawhmu Township constituency outside Rangoon, the democracy icon spent 15 years under house arrest after the military refused to accept her party National League for Democracy (NLD)’s landslide general election victory in 1990.

Her party is contesting all 45 seats that were vacated after politicians joined the military-backed civilian government. It is the first time Suu Kyi has run as a candidate for political office, the BBC reported Sunday.

Even as just a fraction of seats are up for grabs, the NLD is expected to enter parliament as the official opposition.

The European Union (EU) is likely to ease some sanctions on the country if Sunday’s elections go smoothly.

With tens of thousands of people turning out to back Suu Kyi and her fellow NLD candidates, the by-elections have taken on a huge significance, according to BBC.

International observers have been allowed to monitor elections in modern Myanmar for the first time.

A total of 157 candidates from 17 parties are contesting seats for the Hluttaw (parliament). Of these, 129 will contest 37 seats in the Pyithu Hluttaw (lower house), while 22 will compete for six seats in the Amyotha Hluttaw (upper house), the Bangkok Post reported Saturday.

Over 150 international observers from the European Union, the US, Canada, Australia, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) are monitoring the casting of ballots.

A day before the crucial elections in Myanmar, around 60 percent of respondents in a countrywide survey said they will vote for Nobel laureate Aung Sang Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

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