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Obama congratulates Myanmar on elections as Suu Kyi's NLD races ahead

US President Obama has called Myanmar's President Thein Sein to congratulate him on holding successful elections. Myanmar's military leaders have accepted the sweeping victory of Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD.

Obama called Sein and "congratulated the president and the entire government on having been able to hold a historic free and fair general election," Information Minister Ye Htut said on his Facebook page.

For Obama, who has visited Myanmar twice in three years and engaged with the military to pursue a reform agenda, the transition to democracy would be a major foreign policy victory.

On Wednesday, the US president also called Suu Kyi to thank her for "tireless efforts and sacrifice over so many years" to promote peace and democracy.

As election results continue to trickle in, the NLD appears to have swept up nearly 80 percent of contested seats not allocated to the military. On Thursday, the party looked set to overcome a threshold giving it enough seats in the both houses to nominate two presidents.

Under the constitution, 25 percent of seats in both houses of parliament are reserved for the military.

Sein, army chief Min Aung Hlaing, and the military-backed ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) have all acknowledged the landslide victory of the NLD.

They have pledged to respect the people's vote and work with the new government, alleviating concerns of a repeat of the last elections in 1990 when the military ignored the NLD's victory.

However, the military will maintain control over the powerful defense, interior and border security ministries, raising questions about how the NLD will be able to govern and push its agenda.

In a positive step, the army chief, Sein and the head of parliament have all accepted an invitation by Suu Kyi for reconciliation talks. It remains unclear how the still powerful military will work with Suu Kyi, who has vowed to wield power despite being barred from the presidency.

Presidency

Under Myanmar's complex parliamentary-president system, the military and the largest parties in both the lower and upper houses of parliament will nominate a president.

All 664 lawmakers from both houses will then vote on the president. If the NLD gets two-thirds of seats not allocated to the military it will be able to select the presidency. The two runner ups become vice presidents.

Under a law critics say was meant to prevent Suu Kyi from heading the country, the president cannot have a foreign-born spouse or children. Suu Kyi has two British sons from her now deceased British husband. Despite the ban she has said she would rule "above the president" as the head of the party.

cw/jil (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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