Myanmar votes in first contested election in 25 years

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Polls have opened in Myanmar's general election - the first openly contested poll in 25 years after decades of military rule.

The ruling Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP), backed by the military, is one of the frontrunners.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) is expected to make big gains, though she is barred from the presidency.

The current president said the authorities would respect poll results.

"I will accept the new government formed, based on the election result," President Thein Sein said on Friday.

'Above president'

About 30 million people are eligible to vote in the election in Myanmar (also known as Burma).

Media captionAung San Suu Kyi: "I'll run the government and we'll have a president who will work in accordance with the policies of the NLD"

More than 6,000 candidates from over 90 parties are vying to be elected to the 664-seat parliament in the first national elections since a nominally civilian government took power in 2011.

However, 25% of seats are reserved for unelected military representatives, who are expected to side with the USDP.

Myanmar president Thein Sein (C) followed by Myanmar military commander in chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing (C-L), gestures as he arrives Sittwe airport in Sittwe, Rakhine State, western Myanmar, 03 November 2015.Image copyrightEuropean Photopress Agency
Image captionPresident Thein Sein has led a quasi-civilian government since 2011 in Myanmar

Former Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ms Suu Kyi is barred from the presidency, because of the constitution which disqualifies anyone with foreign offspring.

On Thursday, she said she would be "above the president" if her party won. The NLD must take 67% of all contested seats in order to gain a majority.

Hundreds of thousands of people - including minority Rohingya Muslims - have been denied voting rights, raising concerns about the fairness of the poll.

The BBC's Jonah Fisher in Yangon says there are no reliable opinion polls in the country, so no-one really knows how the vote is going to play out.

Ahead of the vote, security has been stepped up across the country, with some 40,000 police guarding polling stations.

More on Myanmar's historic election

A Buddhist monk prays at the Shwedagon Pagoda at sunrise in Yangon on November 6, 2015Image copyrightAFP

Decision-making in the Delta: the BBC's Jonathan Head in the small but crucial town of Hinthada

Elections explained: Why does this vote matter?

'Abandoned people': What rights do the Rohingya Muslims have?

Myanmar vote causes business uncertainty

Ruled by the junta for nearly half a century, Myanmar has seen economic and political reform in recent years.

Ms Suu Kyi has already raised concerns about poll fraud and voting irregularities. In the 1990 election, the NLD won a majority, but the results were largely ignored by the generals.

For its part, the government has warned that rapid change could lead to civil unrest.


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