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World News

Suu Kyi's party pledges unity government after election 'landslide'

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling party said on Friday it would seek to form a government of national unity after official election results showed it had comfortably won enough parliamentary seats to form the next administration.

FILE PHOTO: Myanmar's Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi smiles after a meeting with Norway's Foreign Minister Borge Brende (not in picture) at Myanmar's Foreign Ministry in Naypyitaw, Myanmar July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/File Photo

The latest batch of results from Sunday’s vote confirmed Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) had secured the 322 seats in the bicameral legislature needed to form a government.

The NLD has taken 368 seats of the 434 seats that have been declared, with results from 42 more yet to be announced.

NLD spokesman Monywa Aung Shin said the “landslide” win showed that the people still had faith in Suu Kyi’s leadership.

“However, we have to work on forming a national unity government,” said Monywa Aung Shin, noting how the NLD had invited 39 ethnic minority parties to work with it.

Myanmar has seen insurgencies by various autonomy-seeking guerrilla forces since shortly after its independence from Britain in 1948, and Suu Kyi’s government has been trying to conclude peace efforts though progress has been patchy and violence has flared in some areas.

Ethnic minority political parties have been competing for seats in the national parliament as well as in their state assemblies.

The NLD’s comfortable win will be a welcome boost for Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate who has had a turbulent first term and struggled to meet high public expectations.

She is tasked with developing a country that suffered nearly 50 years of isolation and decay under strict military rule, years of which she was held under house arrest.

Even now, her government is required to govern with military involvement, in particular in the areas of security and defence, under a constitution drafted during the generals’ rule.

The NLD won by a similar margin in the last election in 2015, the first free vote since the end of military rule.

This time, the ballot was seen as a referendum on Suu Kyi’s government, which is hugely popular at home. But its reputation abroad has collapsed due to accusations of genocide against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority, which it denies.

OPPOSITION OBJECTIONS

The main opposition party, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), had won 24 seats, according to the partial official results.

The USDP raised objections on Wednesday and demanded a new vote as soon as possible “in order to have an election that is free, fair, unbiased and free from unfair campaigning”.

A USDP spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.

International and domestic observers said the vote went smoothly and without major irregularities.

The election commission on Wednesday said any allegations of irregularities were from a minority of participants.

The NLD has also demanded proof of wrongdoing, while the military, in an earlier statement, said the election had been carried out successfully.

While the election appeared to go mostly smoothly, more than a million people were unable to vote after polls were cancelled due to insurgencies.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, Muslim minority people many of whom are confined to camps and villages inside Myanmar’s western Rakhine State, most without citizenship, were also unable to vote.

The Arakan Army, an insurgent group fighting for greater autonomy for Rakhine, called in a statement on the army and the NLD government to ensure by-elections were held in areas where polls were cancelled.

(This story has been refiled to remove extraneous words in paragraph 3)

Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Robert Birsel

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