April first’s by-elections mark an important step toward political reform and the democratic process taking shape in Burma. The Southeast Asian nation’s Union Election Commission has announced preliminary results for the parliamentary vote, with the leading opposition party, the National League for Democracy, or NLD, winning 43 of 45 seats in the Lower House of Parliament.
Led by Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, herself an election winner, the NLD will have only a small presence in the legislature. Most of the more than 600 seats are held by current or former soldiers or officials with ties to the former military regime. The party’s presence, though, will add important pro-democracy and reformist voices in the workings of government.
The United States congratulates the people who participated, many for the first time, in the campaign and election process. We are committed to supporting these reform efforts. Going forward, it will be critical for authorities to continue working toward an electoral system that meets international standards, that includes transparency and expeditiously addresses concerns on irregularities and voter intimidation. That the government allowed some foreign election monitors and journalists to watch the process this time was a welcome step in this direction.
Burma has come far since the formation of its new government last April. The election is an important first step in the nation’s democratic transformation, and it is our hope that it is a sign that Burmese leaders intend to continue along the path of greater openness, transparency and reform
The United States will continue to press for further progress in democratization, a halt to hostilities in ethnic minority areas, the unconditional release of political prisoners and a cessation of Burma’s military ties to North Korea. That said, we are encouraged by the people of Burma’s work toward a peaceful, just and free nation, and we support their efforts.