Four years ago, Burma’s President Thein Sein and the ruling regime launched a series of reforms and relaxed press and internet censorship laws that opened the door to democratization. The government also released from house arrest Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the main opposition party, theNational League for Democracy, or NLD.
On November 8th, these reforms were put to their most difficult test yet, as the Burmese people went to the polls to vote in a competitive general election with over 6,000 candidates vying for more than 1,100 parliamentary seats.
Election results show the NLD winning over 75 percent of parliamentary seats nationwide, including enough to control both houses of the legislature.
The United States has been very focused on this election, said White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. “It is a critical milestone in evaluating Burma's democratic transition. The United States participated, along with many international monitors, in working to ensure that the election was credible and inclusive, that there was transparency, and that it reflected the will of the people of Burma.”
25 years ago, Burma held a similar election, but the sitting government annulled the results. This time, the government has pledged to listen to the will of the people and work to transfer power peacefully.
The State Department also recognized structural problems. On November 8 Secretary Kerry said in a public statement, “while these elections were an important step forward, we recognize that they were far from perfect. There remain important structural and systemic impediments to the realization of full democratic and civilian government.”
Rhodes summed it up by saying, “we believe this sends a very positive signal that an election took place. The people's voices were heard. The authorities are committing and pledging to respect the results of that election.”
“Huge challenges remain in the country -- to complete the national reconciliation process with various ethnic groups and to address the humanitarian challenge in Rakhine State,” he said. But “if they can continue in the spirit of national unity, this is an enormous opportunity for the people of Burma.”
The United States congratulates the people of Burma on taking this great step toward democracy and commends all of the people and institutions in the country who worked together to hold a peaceful and historic poll that allowed the people’s voices to be heard.