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Burma Feature: Aung San Suu Kyi & NLD Win --- Is This Beginning of "Democracy"? (Golluoglu)

Celebrations at National League for Democracy headquarters in Rangoon

Esmer Golluoglu reports for The Guardian:

If Burma ever needed a moment to rejoice, this was it. In a nation ruled by an often brutal military junta for nearly half a century, Aung San Suu Kyi's apparent victory in Sunday's parliamentary by-election could not be exaggerated.

Swarms of chanting Burmese flocked to National League for Democracy's (NLD) Rangoon headquarters as the sun set over the crumbling city, calling for the fall of "a sham democracy" and the return of "our fair leader, our beloved leader, Mother Suu".

"We did it! We won!" shouted the thousands of supporters as they filled the streets clapping, dancing and waving red party flags.

While unofficial party results indicate that Suu Kyi may have won 65% of the vote in 82 of her constituencies' 129 polling stations, local observers said that the number may have been as high as 90%, with the NLD reported to have won a minimum of 40 of the 44 seats it contested in the 664 parliamentary seats up for grabs.

The NLD claimed victory in 13 constituencies, including two in the capital Naypyidaw, but no official tallies had been released by 9pm on Sunday. Results must be confirmed by the official electoral commission, with an official declaration expected within a week.

The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, gave cautious support to Sunday's celebrations, saying: "The United States congratulates the people who participated, many for the first time, in the campaign and election process." She added: "It is too early to know what progress of recent months means and whether it will be sustained. There are no guarantees for what lies ahead for the people of Burma."

The daughter of independence fighter Aung San, the Lady --- as she is called here --- is herself in many ways considered a demigod after spending the greater part of 22 years under house arrest. Since her release in November 2010, Suu Kyi has been able to take on the role that many Burmese thought she may never have a chance to perform: that of a pro-democracy campaigner-turned-political leader who may finally make the changes for which she has so long called.

Competing against a military doctor from the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in Sunday's election, Suu Kyi campaigned all over the country for her party as well as in her constituency of Kawhmu, a string of villages comprising 87,000 eligible voters, many of whom were badly affected by the 2008 cyclone Nargis.

Some argue that Suu Kyi chose that constituency to bring media attention to the way of life of most Burmese, a third of whom live on just 30p a day. Amid the thatched hut villages and occasional golden pagoda of the delta's rice paddies and rubber plantations, water comes from a bucket dipped into the ground; electricity is delivered by diesel generators; oxen plough the earth; and school ends at the age of 10.

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