On brink of victory, Suu Kyi calls for talks with Myanmar military

Aung San Suu KyiAung San Suu Kyi called for “national reconciliation” talks with Myanmar’s president and the nation’s powerful army chief on Wednesday as her pro-democracy party stood poised for a landslide election victory.

Power beckons for her National League for Democracy (NLD) party after it took nearly 90 percent of the seats declared so far.

Although poll officials are yet to announce the NLD as winners, Myanmar’s balance of power, dominated for half a century by the army and its allies, appears set to be redrawn.

But Suu Kyi’s supporters remain anxious at how the army will respond to a mauling at the polls, with memories still keen of the 1990 election — won by the NLD but then swatted away by the army.

“Citizens have expressed their will in the election,” she said in letters addressed to President Thein Sein, Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing as well as influential parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann.

“I would like to invite you to discuss national reconciliation next week at a time of your convenience.”

The letters, shared by the NLD on Facebook, come as her democracy movement continued its blitz of ruling party bases following Sunday’s poll.

On Wednesday, election officials said the NLD took its haul to 163 of the 182 seats declared so far across the lower and upper houses.

Suu Kyi, 70, the democracy movement’s magnetic force, secured tens of thousands of votes to retain her seat in Kawhmu constituency.

But she is barred from the presidency by an army-written constitution, which also reserves a quarter of all parliamentary seats for the military.

The NLD needs 67 percent of the contested seats to form a majority. But it is eyeing a much bigger margin — and greater clout inside the new parliament.

The democracy figurehead has vowed to rule from “above the president”, indicating she will use a proxy to sidestep the bar on her reaching top office.

Parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann, a former high ranking general who lost his seat in Sunday’s poll, had been tipped as a compromise candidate for the presidency — although his star has waned inside the USDP.

– Ruling party in tatters –
The drip-feed of election results has brought frustration to NLD supporters, many of whom have waited 25 years since the party last contested a poll to cast their vote.

“We know we won 80 percent… hopefully we will get confirmation today,” said Ko Ko, who runs an air-conditioning company in Yangon.

“We expect Daw Suu to change the country… I voted for change,” he added.

Sunday’s election has left the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in tatters.

It has taken just a handful of seats so far, with several party heavyweights bundled out off their constituencies by voters.

Before the landmark poll Thein Sein vowed his party — and the powerful army — would respect the election result.

Information Minister, Ye Htut, repeated that pledge on Wednesday, adding the president had replied to Suu Kyi’s offer of talks.

“A bilateral meeting will be held” after the election process, he said in a post on his official Facebook page.

Election authorities have said it could take another 10 days or so to announce a winner.

Suu Kyi’s early move to reach out to the army and its political allies appears to show willingness to work constructively with her former captors to cut through Myanmar’s tangled politics.

She has said a democratic government would not seek to punish historic abuses by the military.

A massive popular mandate may prod the military to sit down with their chief antagonist.

Stacked with former military men, the USDP has led a quasi-civilian government since 2011.

The party says it has guided the country through the major economic and social reforms that led to Sunday’s election, which is believed to have seen a massive 80 percent voter turnout.

Its critics condemn it as a stooge of the army, which ruled as a junta for half a century.

Analysts say difficult months lie ahead, with the charter gifting the army a parliamentary bloc to obstruct changes, key security posts and block Suu Kyi’s political ascent.

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