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US Hails Myanmar By-Elections

The United States on Monday hailed the recent by-elections held in Myanmar as an important step towards the country's "democratic transformation," and congratulated opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for her National League for Democracy (NLD) party's strong showing in the polls.

"This election is an important step in Burma's democratic transformation, and we hope it is an indication that the government of Burma intends to continue along the path of greater openness, transparency and reform," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement, referring to Myanmar by its previous name.

"We congratulate the people of Burma on their participation in the electoral process, and Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy on their strong showing in the polls," the White House spokesman added.

The by-elections held Sunday were for seats vacated by parliamentarians who were appointed to Cabinet posts or other executive positions in the government. Polling could not be held as planned in three constituencies in Kachin State (northern Myanmar) due to security concerns over the ongoing ethnic conflict.

Earlier on Monday, Myanmar's election officials confirmed that Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy secured 40 of the 45 seats contested in Sunday's by-elections. Suu Kyi herself was overwhelmingly elected from the rural township of Kawhmu, one of the areas hit hard by the devastating 2008 Cyclone Nargis.

Suu Kyi, who had become an international symbol of peaceful resistance during the military-rule, termed the by-election results "a victory of the people." She also called on her jubilant supporters to show restraint, saying: "It is very important that NLD members take special care that the success of the people is a dignified one."

Despite NLD's strong showing in Sunday's by-elections, the army and its proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) still dominate the 664-seat bi-cameral parliament with about 80% of seats.

The NLD had secured a landslide victory in the 1990 elections, but could not assume power as the ruling military junta refused to recognize the election results. Suu Kyi herself was under house arrest for most the past 20 years. She was freed on November 13, hours after the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), political arm of the previous military junta, emerged victorious in the election in which both she and her party were denied participation.

Later, the NLD boycotted the November 2010 polls, which were dubbed as an eye-wash by most of the international community. The party decided to rejoin mainstream politics in December and was subsequently allowed to contest the by-polls by the country's election commission.

Sunday's by-elections were monitored by representatives of some 25 countries, including the US, EU and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). They were earlier invited to do so by the new civilian government that took office in March 2011 as part of efforts to get the recently adopted political reforms witnessed and verified by the international community.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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