Votes counted in landmark poll

Voters hope the military will accept their decision this time

Votes are being counted in Myanmar’s first openly contested general election for 25 years.

Turnout is estimated in excess of 80 per cent with the elections being seen as a big step away from decades of military rule.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) is expected to win the most seats, although the 2008 military-drafted constitution specifically bars her from the presidency.

The military-backed Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP) has been in power since 2011 and many of its ministers were rulers in the junta and most are former army officers.

Voting was generally smooth, observers reported, with some isolated problems.

Excited NLD supporters appeared outside the party headquarters in Yangon at night, apparently in the hope of hearing some election results.

Instead they were urged to keep calmly waiting at home.

Long queues formed at some polling booths from dawn.

Jubilant voters cast their ballots with some displaying fingers stained purple, the mark to show people had voted.

“When I cast my vote I was very excited and so worried that I might do something wrong that my hands were shaking,” said Kay Khine Soe, in Suu Kyi’s Kawhmu constituency, Yangon Region.

Yangon voter Wuhan Datong said: “I am 57 years old. I never participated in the previous voting since I had doubts over it. But the election this time is fair. So I have come to vote.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated Myanmar on the “peaceful and historic” election but noted that the polls were “far from perfect”.

“The US congratulates the people of Burma on the November 8 election and commends all of the people and institutions in the country who worked together to hold a peaceful and historic poll,” he said in a statement.

“While these elections were an important step forward, we recognise that they were far from perfect.”

There remained impediments to the formation of a democratic government, including the 25 per cent of parliamentary seats reserved for the military; the disfranchisement of groups who voted in previous elections, including the Rohingya; and the disqualification of candidates based on arbitrary requirements, Kerry said.

He said observers would continue to watch the vote-counting process.

“We encourage the political leaders in the country to work together in the spirit of national unity and democratic reform to seek what is best for the country”.

“A peaceful post-election period is crucial for stability and maintaining the confidence of the people in the credibility of the electoral process and the overall political transition. The US remains committed to supporting the people of Burma in their pursuit of democracy, development and national reconciliation going forward,” Kerry added.

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