Myanmar votes to elect Suu Kyi (Lead)

April 1st, 2012 - 3:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Yangon, April 1 (IANS) Thousands Sunday voted in Myanmar’s parliamentary by-elections in which Nobel laureate and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is contesting for the first time.

Over six million voters are eligible to decide the fate of 157 candidates from 17 parties, media reports said. The balloting is taking place for 45 vacant seats in nine regions.

Over 150 observers from the European Union, the US, Canada, Australia, India and Asean are monitoring the exercise.

The 66-year-old Suu Kyi is standing for a lower house seat from Kawhmu Township constituency near Yangon. On Sunday, she visited polling stations in Kawhmu.

A day earlier, around 60 percent of respondents in a countrywide survey said they will vote for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD).

The NLD is contesting all 45 seats. BBC said it was the first time the NLD was taking part in elections since 1990.

The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party and the NLD are the two main contestants.

The Myanmar government is still dominated by military and former military officials from the former regime that ruled the country for decades.

Since 2010, a transition of power began and the government freed many political prisoners, relaxed media restrictions and persuaded Suu Kyi and the NLD to rejoin the political process.

In 1990, NLD had won a landslide victory in a general election but the military refused to accept the result.

Suu Kyi spent much of the following 20 years under house arrest and refused to take part in the 2010 election.

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