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After Historic Election, Burma’s Military-Backed Rulers: ‘We Lost’

Even before the final vote tally is in, Burma's ruling party has accepted its election loss.

YANGON, MYANMAR - NOVEMBER 09:  A man holds up a sign stating 'we must win' as crowds gather for the election result announcement in front of the National League for Democracy's headquarters after Myanmar's first free and fair election on November 9, 2015 in Yangon, Myanmar. The elections are Myanmar's first openly contested polls in 25 years, following decades of military rule. Noble laureate Aung San Suu Kyi appeared poised to win power in Myanmar on today despite her party's growing concerns about cheating in yesterday's historic election.  (Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)
YANGON, MYANMAR - NOVEMBER 09: A man holds up a sign stating 'we must win' as crowds gather for the election result announcement in front of the National League for Democracy's headquarters after Myanmar's first free and fair election on November 9, 2015 in Yangon, Myanmar. The elections are Myanmar's first openly contested polls in 25 years, following decades of military rule. Noble laureate Aung San Suu Kyi appeared poised to win power in Myanmar on today despite her party's growing concerns about cheating in yesterday's historic election. (Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)

RANGOON, Burma — One day after Burma’s first free election in a quarter of a century, election officials are still tallying the votes. But the overall trend is already clear enough — so clear that the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) was forced to acknowledge a dispiriting reality. “We lost,” USDP Chairman Htay Oo told Reuters. “We have to accept our voters’ desire,” said President Thein Sein. “Whoever leads the country, the most important thing is to have stability and development.”

Neither man needed to mention the name of the winner; it was only too obvious. The victory belongs to the leader of the opposition, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, known here simply as “the Lady,” and her National League for Democracy (NLD). She, for her part, gave a speech to supporters that eschewed gloating and emphasized social harmony: “Victory or failure, that is not important. What is important is how we win or lose. Those who lose should bravely concede, while those who win should humbly celebrate the victory. That is a true democracy.”

Needless to say, her carefully chosen words were addressed to the powers-that-be as much as to the members of her own camp. The last time Aung San Suu Kyi led the NLD to a landslide election victory was in 1990, and the military junta then in charge of the country (the forebears of today’s government) quickly declared the results null and void, threw countless dissidents into jail, and plunged the country into a political deep freeze from which it’s still trying to emerge. Burma has come a long way since then, but the generals and their friends remain powerful, and the Lady will have to move with care as she plots her next moves.

Photo credit: Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images

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