Myanmar's ruling party concedes, country steps closer to democracy

  • People take part of the rally outside the National League for Democracy (NLD) office after Myanmar’s first free and fair election on November 8, 2015 in Yangon, Myanmar.
  • People take part of the rally outside National League for Democracy office on Nov. 9, 2015 in Yangon, Myanmar. 
  • Supporters of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy party, brave rain outside the NLD headquarters in Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 9, 2015. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party said Monday that it was confident it was headed for a landslide victory in Myanmar’s historic elections, and official results from the government that began trickling in appeared to back up the claim.
  • Supporters of Myanmar’s pro-democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi gather outside National League for Democracy headquarters (NLD) in Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 9, 2015.
  • Supporters of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy party cheer as election results are posted outside the NLD headquarters in Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 9, 2015. 
  • People take part of the rally outside NLD office on Nov. 9, 2015 in Yangon, Myanmar.
  • Supporters of Myanmar’s pro-democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi gather outside National League for Democracy headquarters (NLD) in Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 9, 2015.
  • Crowds cheer as they gather for the election result announcement in front of the National League for Democracy’s headquarters after Myanmar’s first free and fair election on Nov. 9, 2015, in Yangon, Myanmar. The elections are Myanmar’s first openly contested polls in 25 years, following decades of military rule. Noble laureate Aung San Suu Kyi appeared poised to win power in Myanmar on today despite her party’s growing concerns about cheating in yesterday’s historic election.
  • A supporter of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy party braves rain outside the NLD headquarters in Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 9, 2015.
  • Supporters sing a song for Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as they wait for official results from the Union Election Commission during heavy rain fall in front of National League for Democracy Party (NLD) head office at Yangon, November 9, 2015. The party of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi won all 12 of the parliamentary seats declared in the first round of results after Sunday’s general election, according to the country’s election commission. The 12 seats, all in the country’s largest city, Yangon, went to the National League for Democracy (NLD), Union Election Commission Chairman Tin Aye told a news conference. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
  • Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (C), chairperson of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, arrives at the NLD headquarters to deliver a speech, in Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 9. 2015.
  • A supporter of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy party waits in pouring rain outside the NLD headquarters in Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 9, 2015.
  • Supporters of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi celebrate as partial results are shown on a television the outside National League for Democracy (NLD) party headquarters in Yangon Nov. 8, 2015. Voting unfolded smoothly in Myanmar on Sunday with no reports of violence to puncture a mood of jubilation marking the Southeast Asian nation’s first free nationwide election in 25 years, its biggest stride yet in a journey to democracy from dictatorship.
  • A woman displays her inked finger as she poses for a photograph after voting in the village of Dala, Myanmar, Nov. 8, 2015.
  • Voters line up at a polling station in the Golden Valley township during Myanmar’s first free and fair election on Nov. 8, 2015 in Yangon, Myanmar. The elections will be Myanmar’s first openly contested polls in 25 years, following decades of military rule. 
  • A woman casts her vote at a polling station in Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 8, 2015.
  • A woman is seen at a polling station while casting her vote during the general election in Sittwe on Nov. 8, 2015. 
  • People cheer as National League for Democracy (NLD) votes are called out as advance votes are being counted at a polling station during the general election in Mandalay, Myanmar, Nov. 8, 2015. 
  • A Muslim voter lines up to vote in a Buddhist prayer hall during the general election in Mandalay, Myanmar, Nov. 8, 2015. 
  • Myanmar election staff count votes at a polling station in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Nov. 8, 2015.
  • Volunteers prepare ballots for voters at a polling station in Dala, a village outside of Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 8, 2015. 
  • Men try to catch a glimpse of vote counting outside of a polling station in Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 8, 2015. 
  • People stand outside a polling station in Mandalay, Myanmar, Nov. 8, 2015.

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Updated

Myanmar’s ruling party conceded defeat in the country’s general election on Monday as the opposition led by democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi appeared on course for a landslide victory.

“We lost,” Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) acting chairman Htay Oo told Reuters in an interview a day after the Southeast Asian country’s first free nationwide election in quarter of a century.

By late afternoon, vendors outside the headquarters of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Yangon were selling red T-shirts with Suu Kyi’s face and the words “We won.”

The election commission later began announcing constituency-by-constituency results from Sunday’s poll. All of the first 12 parliamentary seats announced were won by Suu Kyi’s party.

The NLD said its own tally of results posted at polling stations around the country showed it was on track to win more than 70% of the seats being contested in parliament, above the two-thirds threshold it needs to form Myanmar’s first democratically elected government since the early 1960s. Reuters was not able to independently verify the party’s own estimates of its performance.

The election was a landmark in the country’s unsteady journey to democracy from the military dictatorship that made it a pariah state for so long. It is also a moment that Suu Kyi will relish after spending years under house arrest following the country’s 1990 election, when the NLD won a landslide victory that was ignored by the junta.

Khin Myo Thidar, a 36-year-old retailer, told NBC News she woke up to go vote at 5 a.m. on Sunday. “I am very excited for this election is very different from the past and the whole world is watching,” she said, adding that “the country could use some changes.”

Whatever the result, Myanmar is heading into a period of uncertainty over how Suu Kyi and other ascendant parties negotiate sharing power with the still-dominant military.

Suu Kyi started the contest with a sizable handicap. The military-drafted constitution guarantees one-quarter of parliament’s seats to unelected members of the armed forces.

Even if she gets the majority she needs, Suu Kyi is barred from taking the presidency herself under the constitution written by the junta to preserve its power. Suu Kyi has said she would be the power behind the new president regardless of a constitution she has derided as “very silly.”

The military will, however, retain significant power.

It is guaranteed key ministerial positions, the constitution gives it the right to take over the government under certain circumstances, and it also has a grip on the economy through holding companies.

This article, which first appeared on NBCNews.com, is by Reuters and Nat Sumon.

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