Among the voters braving long lines at polling places across Myanmar on Sunday, there was a sense of jubilation at taking part in what many described as the first genuine elections in their lives. “We’ve been suppressed for a very long time by the government,” said U Saan Maw, 63, who voted Sunday and made sure his friends and family did, too. “This is our chance for freedom.” After five decades of military rule and a series of rigged or canceled elections, Myanmar’s nationwide elections appeared to proceed without violence, raising hopes that the country’s five-year transition to democracy had reached another milestone. Though the official tally may not be known for days, early results on Monday showed the opposition, led by the Nobel Peace laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, leading in Yangon, Mandalay and the capital, Naypyidaw. On Monday morning, the speaker of the lower house of Parliament, Thura Shwe Mann, conceded defeat to a member of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party. He posted the message to his Facebook page. But in an overwhelmingly rural country, the elections will be won or lost in the countryside and those results are likely to be more slow in coming.
Much remained uncertain about the outcome and how the results will be received by the military establishment that still retains the reins of power.
By many measures the elections have already been less than free and fair.Hundreds of thousands of people from the country’s Muslim minority were disenfranchised by being taken off the voter rolls.
Yet those who voted Sunday said they felt a thrill knowing that their country might be guided by the will of the people after so many years of military domination. More than 32 million people were registered to vote.