Opposition poised to win Myanmar's first free general election in 25 years

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Myanmar's Historic Elections May End Military Rule

The party of opposition leader and nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi seems likely to win a majority of the votes cast in Myanmar's first free general election in 25 years, Reuters is reporting. Sunday's closely-monitored vote seems to have gone smoothly, and according to news reports most voters seemed greatly enthusiastic about the process, which is considered a crucial step in the country's five-year-old transition from military dictatorship to something resembling a democracy. The final tally is still days away, but early results show that the opposition party is leading. Some 32 million people registered to vote.

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Opposition poised to win Myanmar's first free general election in 25 years
Leader of Myanmar's National League for Democracy party, Aung San Suu Kyi, delivers a speech with party patron Tin Oo from a balcony of her party's headquarters in Yangon, Myanmar, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015. Suu Kyi on Monday hinted that her party will win the country's historic elections, and urged supporters not to provoke their losing rivals. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Novice Buddhist nuns line up after walking the streets to collect alms in central Yangon, Myanmar, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015. Myanmar was trapped in a post-election limbo Tuesday with official results barely trickling in, although opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party claimed a victory massive enough to give it the presidency and loosen the military's grip on the country. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
People gather to buy merchandise with pictures of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at a shop run by her National League of Democracy party in Yangon, Myanmar, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015. Her party, which appears headed for a massive election victory, accused the government election panel Tuesday of intentionally delaying results, saying it may be trying "to play a trick." (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
Supporters of Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi claps as Suu Kyi delivers a speech in Yangon, Myanmar, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015. Suu Kyi on Monday hinted at a victory by her party in the country's historic elections, and urged supporters not to provoke their losing rivals who are backed by the military.(AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
Supporters of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyiâs National League for Democracy party cheer as they watch the result of general election on an LED screen outside the partyâs headquarters Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015 in Yangon, Myanmar. Millions of citizens voted Sunday in Myanmar's historic general election that will test whether the military's long-standing grip on power can be loosened, with opposition leader Suu Kyi's party expected to secure an easy victory. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)
Supporters of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyiâs National League for Democracy party holding banner cheer as they watch the result of general election on an LED screen outside the partyâs headquarters Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, in Yangon, Myanmar. Myanmar voted Sunday in historic elections that will test whether popular mandate can loosen the military's longstanding grip on power, even if opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party secures a widely-expected victory. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)
Supporters of Myanmar's National League for Democracy party cheer as they watch early voting results outside the NLD headquarters in Yangon, Myanmar, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. Myanmar voted Sunday in historic elections that will test whether popular mandate will help loosen the militaryâs longstanding hold on power even if opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyiâs party secures a widely-expected victory. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
In this Nov. 8, 2015 file photo, people line outside a polling station in Yangon, Myanmar. Myanmar voted Sunday in historic elections that will test whether popular mandate will help loosen the militaryâs longstanding hold on power even if opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyiâs party secures a widely-expected victory. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe, File)
A voter casts a ballot in advance for the upcoming Nov. 8 general election at a township Election Commission Office in Mandalay, Myanmar, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. On Sunday Myanmar will hold what is being viewed as the country's best chance for a free and credible election in a quarter of a century.(AP Photo/Hkun Lat)
Myanmar's National League for Democracy party leader Aung San Suu Kyi visits a polling station on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. Myanmar voted Sunday in historic elections that will test whether popular mandate will help loosen the militaryâs longstanding hold on power even if opposition leader Suu Kyiâs party secures a widely-expected victory. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Voters line up to cast their ballots at a polling station during the general elections Sunday, Nov 8, 2015, in Yangon, Myanmar. Myanmar voted Sunday in historic elections that will test whether popular mandate can loosen the military's longstanding grip on power, even if opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party secures a widely-expected victory. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)
Men try to catch a glimpse of vote counting outside of a polling station in Yangon, Myanmar, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. With tremendous excitement and hope, millions of citizens voted Sunday in Myanmar's historic general election that will test whether the military's long-standing grip on power can be loosened, with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party expected to secure an easy victory. (AP Photo/Amanda Mustard)
Myanmar's President Thein Sein casts his vote in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. Myanmar voted Sunday in historic elections that will test whether popular mandate will help loosen the military's longstanding hold on power even if opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party secures a widely-expected victory. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)
Votes are counted in an unfinished building being used as a polling station in Yangon, Myanmar, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. With tremendous excitement and hope, millions of citizens voted Sunday in Myanmar's historic general election that will test whether the military's long-standing grip on power can be loosened, with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party expected to secure an easy victory. (AP Photo/Amanda Mustard)
Votes are counted in an unfinished building being used as a polling station in Yangon, Myanmar, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. With tremendous excitement and hope, millions of citizens voted Sunday in Myanmar's historic general election that will test whether the military's long-standing grip on power can be loosened, with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party expected to secure an easy victory. (AP Photo/Amanda Mustard)
Leader of Myanmar's National League for Democracy party, Aung San Suu Kyi, is escorted through a crowd as she visits a polling station on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. Myanmar voted Sunday in historic elections that will test whether popular mandate will help loosen the militaryâs longstanding hold on power even if opposition leader Suu Kyiâs party secures a widely-expected victory. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A woman displays her inked finger as she poses for a photograph after voting in the village of Dala, Myanmar, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. Myanmar voted Sunday in historic elections that will test whether popular mandate will help loosen the militaryâs longstanding hold on power even if opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyiâs party secures a widely-expected victory. (AP Photo/Amanda Mustard)
Police officers sit outside a polling station with an elderly man in Yangon, Myanmar, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. Myanmar voted Sunday in historic elections that will test whether popular mandate will help loosen the militaryâs longstanding hold on power even if opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyiâs party secures a widely-expected victory. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
Officials of Union Election Commission sort ballots at a polling station in Mandalay, Myanmar, Sunday Nov. 8, 2015. Myanmar voted Sunday in historic elections that will test whether popular mandate will help loosen the militaryâs longstanding hold on power even if opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyiâs party secures a widely-expected victory. (AP Photo/Hkun Lat)
People try to catch a glimpse of vote counting outside of a polling station in Yangon, Myanmar, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. With tremendous excitement and hope, millions of citizens voted Sunday in Myanmar's historic general election that will test whether the military's long-standing grip on power can be loosened, with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party expected to secure an easy victory. (AP Photo/Amanda Mustard)
In this Nov. 5, 2015 file photo, supporters of Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party decorate a back of a truck for a campaign rally to conclude their campaign in Yangon, Myanmar. On Sunday Myanmar will hold what is being viewed as the country's best chance for a free and credible election in a quarter of a century. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe, File)
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Regardless of the results, however, the vote will hardly be fully representative. As the New York Timespoints out, hundreds of thousands of Muslims were removed from voter rolls in advance of the election, yet another demonstration of the country's routine oppression of Muslims and other minorities. In addition, it's impossible to predict how the nation's military leaders will respond to the results of the election. Myanmar's military-written constitution stipulates that a significant amount of power is retained by the military no matter what, including a guaranteed percentage of unelected seats in parliament, meaning Suu Kyi's opposition party must win 2/3 of the vote to obtain a majority. The military has also prohibited anyone from becoming president if they are married to a foreigner or have foreign-born children, both of which apply to Suu Kyi. She has in turn pledged to run the country from above the president, if necessary, provided her party wins the majority.

It's also worth noting that Suu Kyi won the last free election in 1990, only to have the result ignored by the ruling junta, and to subsequently spend the next 20 years under house arrest. Military officials have vowed that won't happen again this time. Either way, the military still controls a massive stake in the country's economy, runs the police, army, and borders, and maintains the right to re-take over the government under certain circumstances -- so Myanmar's path to full democracy remains long and fraught.

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