RANGOON — Thein Sein will congratulate opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for what looks increasingly likely to be the National League for Democracy’s drubbing of his ruling party in the Nov. 8 general election, according to a senior official close to the president.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that Thein Sein intended to do so, but only after official election returns confirm that Suu Kyi’s NLD has triumphed over the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in the nationwide vote.
“He doesn’t do it now because the whole official results haven’t been released yet. When it’s all official, he will congratulate her. Right now, he is waiting for the UEC [Union Election Commission] results,” he said.
“He will do it as a matter of respect to the winner from a loser,” he added.
Though more than 90 political parties fielded candidates in Sunday’s general election, the contest on a national level has shaped up to be a two-horse race. Even then, early counting paints a picture of a lopsided head-to-head.
Preliminary reports on Sunday evening and the release of results from more than 200 races to date indicate that Suu Kyi’s NLD is on track to secure a commanding majority in Parliament. On Wednesday morning, the NLD campaign team claimed that by its own count, the party had won at least 380 seats in the Union Parliament, easily enough to form an NLD government.
In terms of the two parties’ official electoral standing, the UEC has since Monday announced election results in batches of one to several dozen races. As of Wednesday evening, the USDP had won just 19 seats in the Union Parliament and regional legislatures, while the NLD had come away with 255.
In response to a question from The Irrawaddy on Sunday after he cast his ballot in Naypyidaw, Thein Sein said he would accept the reality when asked what he would do in the event that his party was defeated.
Khin Zaw Win, director of the Tampadipa Institute, a Rangoon-based think-tank that advises some Burmese lawmakers, said Thein Sein should commend Suu Kyi for her success, following the lead of other high-profile USDP candidates who conceded defeat on Monday.
“U Shwe Mann has done it to his rival in his constituency. U Htay Oo conceded his defeat,” he said, referring to the Union Parliament speaker and USDP joint secretary, respectively. “U Thein Sein has to congratulate her as a courtesy. That’s the way heads of state do things internationally.”
Aung Moe Zaw, chairman of the Democratic Party for a New Society, said he wanted to see Thein Sein contribute to a “new culture” in Burmese politics.
“We have a bad history with ruling parties’ refusal to hand over power. If U Thein Sein congratulates Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, it would send a message at home and abroad that there will be a smooth transfer of power,” he added.