RANGOON — The party of Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, which appears headed for a massive election victory, accused the government election panel Tuesday of intentionally delaying results, saying it wants to “maybe play a trick.”
The surprising accusation by the National League for Democracy (NLD) added a worrying twist to what had been an amicable election, with the ruling party appearing to be taking its expected loss gracefully after the Sunday vote.
“The Union Election Commission has been delaying intentionally because maybe they want to play a trick or something,” NLD spokesman Win Htien told reporters at Suu Kyi’s house after a party meeting. “It doesn’t make sense that they are releasing the results piece by piece. It shouldn’t be like that,” he said.
“They are trying to be crooked,” he added.
Nearly two full days after voting ended, the election commission, which did not immediately respond to the accusation, had released results for only about 50 seats in the 664-member Parliament. Based on its own counting, the opposition has claimed victory in 154 of the 164 seats in four of the country’s 14 states. In addition, the commission announced that the NLD had won 11 of 15 seats in four regional parliaments.
The accusation raises concerns about the intentions of the ruling Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP), which is beholden to the military that had ruled the country with an iron-grip from 1962 until 2011. Since then, the USDP, largely made up former junta members, has been led by President Thein Sein. A former general, Thein Sein has been praised for beginning political and economic reforms to end Burma’s isolation and jump-start its moribund economy.
It is also disconcerting because in 1990 elections, which the NLD won overwhelmingly, the ruling junta of the time refused to recognize the results.
Still, observers believe that the military had little to gain by interfering again because as part of reforms to allow democracy gradually, it has already secured its position with constitutionally guaranteed powers.
For example, no matter who forms the government, the military gets to keep control of the ministries of defense, interior and border security. It controls large parts of the national economy. Also, the military can block constitutional amendments because 25 percent seats in Parliament are reserved for it. Amendments require more than a 75 percent vote.
The NLD is widely expected to finish with the most seats in Parliament. A two-thirds majority would give it control over the executive posts under Burma’s complicated parliamentary-presidency system.
The military and the largest parties in the Upper House and the Lower House will each nominate a candidate for president. After Jan. 31, all 664 legislators will cast ballots and the top vote-getter will become president, while the other two will be vice presidents. A massive majority in Parliament would allow the NLD to take the presidency and one of the vice president slots.
Capturing the presidency and Parliament would give the NLD power over legislation, economic policy and foreign relations. But a constitutional amendment bars anyone with a foreign spouse or child from being president or vice president, meaning Suu Kyi, 70, is not eligible for those posts. Her two sons are British, as was her late husband.
Suu Kyi has said, however, that she will act as the country’s leader if the NLD wins the presidency, saying she will be “above the president.”
In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest praised the “meaningful, competitive election” as an “important step in Burma’s democratic reform process.”
But Earnest also noted “structural and systemic flaws” in Burma’s system, pointing to the laws preventing Suu Kyi from becoming president.
“There are some imperfections—to put it mildly. There’s also no denying the rather dramatic change we’ve seen inside of Burma,” he said in a statement to reporters.
In a reflection of the reverence that many people here have for Suu Kyi, a woman in her 70s came to her house Tuesday to give the opposition leader a ruby brooch set in gold, shaped like a map of Burma.
Htay Htay Aye told reporters: “I’ve kept this brooch for more than 40 years but it’s time for her to wear it. This is a present for her victory.”
Suu Kyi was in a meeting and couldn’t meet the woman. “But I left her that present. It’s not because we are friends, it’s only because I respect her.”