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In Photos: Elections Make History, Generate Hope for a New Myanmar

November 11, 2015

By Kim N. B. Ninh, Susan Lee

On Sunday, November 8, more than 30 million voters in Myanmar went to the polls to cast their votes for members of the Union Parliament as well as for the 14 state and region parliaments. These were the first elections in many decades in which an astounding 91 diverse political parties participated. Given that many were voting for the first time, the Union Election Commission, political parties, and hundreds of civil society organizations provided much-needed voter education. At more than 40,000 polling stations across the country on Election Day, people lined up early and waited patiently for their turn to vote. Some 10,000 international and local election observers were deployed to monitor the election.

While we’re still waiting for the final election tally to be announced by the Union Election Commission, results thus far indicate a landslide victory for the main opposition party, the National League of Democracy headed by the Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, against the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party. President U Thein Sein has offered his congratulations to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for her party’s commanding lead and emphasized the government’s commitment to a peaceful transition of power. This photo blog captures these historic elections, which the government’s own Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper called the “Dawn of a New Era,” as witnessed across townships in the largest city of Yangon.

MyanmarElection1 In the weeks before the elections, campaign posters for the National League for Democracy (NLD) were displayed near the Central Railway Station in Yangon. Photo: Thet Htoo MyanmarElection2 Posters featuring local candidates adorn a Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) campaign office. Photo: Nick Freeman MyanmarElection3 In downtown Yangon, people walk past a Nov. 3 campaign event of the Democracy Party (Myanmar), one of 91 political parties contesting the parliamentary election. Photo: Thet Htoo MyanmarElection4 A woman reviews a billboard displaying the voting procedure in Kyauktada Township. Photo: Thet Htoo MyanmarElection5 Voters examine a poster describing valid and invalid ballots in Kyauktada Township. Photo: Thet Htoo MyanmarElection6 Two days before the elections, NLD volunteers demonstrate to villagers the correct method of stamping the ballot during a door-to-door voter education program in Ywar Thar Yar village, Kawhmu Township. Photo: Thet Htoo MyanmarElection7 An elderly voter practices stamping a sample ballot in Ywar Thar Ywar village, Kawhmu Township. Photo: Thet Htoo MyanmarElection8 In the last week before the election, supporters of the ruling USDP wave placards at a campaign event in Mingalar Taungnyunt Township. Photo: Thet Htoo MyanmarElection9 Trishaw drivers line up for a parade on Nov. 3 in support of NLD candidates in Thingangyun Township. Photo: Thet Htoo MyanmarElection10 Tens of thousands of NLD supporters turned out to hear Aung San Suu Kyi speak at her final public campaign rally near Thuwanna Pagoda in Thinganguyn Township on Nov. 1. Photo: Thet Htoo MyanmarElection11 At more than 40,000 polling stations across Myanmar, voters like these in Bahan Township quietly and patiently began lining up hours before polls opened at 6 am for the opportunity to cast their ballots. Photo: Thet Htoo MyanmarElection12 With few exceptions, polling across the country proceeded calmly and smoothly. A woman holds her voter identification slip and national registration card as she waits for her turn to vote on Election Day in Bahan Township. Photo: Thet Htoo MyanmarElection13 Though the elderly and infirm were permitted to submit advance votes, many preferred to make the trip to the polls on Election Day. A young woman receives assistance at her polling station in Bahan Township. Photo: Thet Htoo MyanmarElection14 Assisted by her relatives, an elder woman arrives to cast her vote in Phayargyi village, Kawhmu Township. Photo: Thet Htoo MyanmarElection15 Polling station workers check voters’ identities against the voter list before issuing ballots in Phayargyi village, Kawhmu Township. Photo: Thet Htoo MyanmarElection16 Voters cast their votes on Election Day in Bahan Township. Photo: Thet Htoo MyanmarElection17 A woman in Bahan Township dips her finger in ink to signify that she has voted. Photo: Thet Htoo MyanmarElection18 A polling station officer displays each ballot to party agents, election observers, community witnesses, and media as counting began at each polling station immediately after the polls closed in Bahan Township. Photo: Thet Htoo MyanmarElection19 In many places, such as in Kyauktada Township, the counting process lasted late into the evening. Photo: Thet Htoo MyanmarElection20 Outside NLD headquarters in Yangon, party supporters celebrated as preliminary results begin to spread on social media after polls closed on Election Day. Photo: Thet Htoo

Kim N. B. Ninh is The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Myanmar and Susan Lee is program manager there. They can be reached at kim.ninh@asiafoundation.org and susan.lee@asiafoundation.org. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors, not those of The Asia Foundation.

Related locations: Myanmar, Washington DC
Related programs: Elections, Strengthen Governance
Related topics: Civil Society, Myanmar Elections, Transparency

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