Supporters of Myanmar’s opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi erupted in euphoric cheers Sunday after her party said she won a parliamentary seat in a landmark election, setting the stage for her to take public office for the first time.
The victory, if confirmed, would mark a major milestone in the Southeast Asian nation, where the military has ruled almost exclusively for a half-century and where a new reform-minded government is seeking legitimacy and a lifting of Western sanctions.
It would also mark the biggest prize of Suu Kyi’s political career, and a spectacular reversal of fortune for the 66-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate who the former junta had kept imprisoned in her lakeside home for the better part of two decades.
The victory claim was displayed on a digital signboard outside the opposition National League for Democracy’s headquarters in Myanmar’s main city, Yangon, where supporters gathered by the thousands as the polls closed in the late afternoon. They began wildly shouting upon learning the news, chanting “We won! We won!” while clapping, dancing, waving red party flags and gesturing with thumbs-up and V-for-victory signs.
As more counts came in from the NLD’s poll watchers around the country, the crowd grew to as many as 10,000. The party’s security guards tried without success to keep the traffic flowing past the people occupying much of the road and all nearby sidewalks.
By 9 p.m., the NLD was claiming victory in 13 constituencies, including two in the capital, Naypyitaw. It claimed substantial leads in about 10 more. No official tallies had been released.