Myanmar's president has congratulated pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on her party's victory in the country's first free election in 25 years. The NLD is poised to secure an absolute majority.
President Thein Sein said the government would accept the results of the historic vote and would work with "all other people" to ensure stability in the post-election period.
"Congratulations ... to the chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi and her party for gathering the support of the people," a spokesman for the president said in a statement posted to Facebook on Wednesday.
"The government will respect and follow the people's choice and decision, and work on transferring power peacefully according to the timetable," the statement continued.
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) appears set to win by a landslide after taking more than 85 percent of the seats declared so far. Late on Wednesday, the Union Election Commission said the NLD had won 256 out of 299 counted seats across the lower and upper houses. The party needs a combined 329 seats in the two houses of parliament to give it a majority and allow it to select the next president.
The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), created by the junta and led by retired soldiers, had just 17 of the elected seats in the lower house and four in the upper house.
"We lost," Htay Oo, acting chairman of the USDP, told the DPA news agency. "We accept the defeat, and respect the results."
Rocky road ahead
As the NLD's dominance in the polls became clearer, Suu Kyi sent letters to the president, army chief Min Aung Hlaing, and parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann, urging them to recognize the popular mandate. She also requested they meet soon for reconciliation talks.
Min Aung Hlaing on Wednesday offered his congratulations to the Nobel laureate, and said he would meet for talks once the election results were finalized.
Sunday's vote has been hailed as a vital step in Myanmar's transition to democracy, but analysts predict difficult months lie ahead. The armed forces have continued to hold sway in many of the country's political institutions since handing over power to Thein Sein's quasi civilian government in 2011. Under the junta-crafted constitution, at least a quarter of the seats in both chambers of parliament must go to the military.
Who'll be president?
The constitution also stipulates that 70-year-old Suu Kyi cannot become president because her children are foreign nationals. Suu Kyi, who retained her seat in Kawhmu constituency, has spoken out defiantly against the clause, saying she will run the country regardless.
"We'll find one," she told the BBC on Tuesday, referring to her choice of president. "But that won't stop me from making all the decisions as the leader of the winning party."
While the election was seen as a huge milestone in Myanmar, it was not without its flaws. The US observer mission said that the persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority was not enfranchised, while the EU representative stressed the military's reserved seats were an obstacle to full democracy.
nm/kms (Reuters, AFP, dpa)