Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party said Monday that it had won 56 of the 57 parliamentary seats from Myanmar's main city of Yangon, a result that portends a massive sweep in historic elections that could eventually give it the presidency next year.
The National League for Democracy announced that it had won 44 of the 45 lower house seats and all 12 of the upper house seats from Yangon, a party stronghold, in Sunday's general election. It also won 87 of the 90 seats in the Yangon state legislature. Elections for regional parliaments were held simultaneously.
As the results were announced at the party's headquarters in Yangon, huge cheers broke out among the crowd of red-shirted supporters, mindful that Myanmar may finally be freeing itself from the stranglehold of the military, which ruled the country for a half-century until 2011 and continued to wield influence through a quasi-civilian government afterward.
"Aung Kyaw Kyaw, a 29-year-old pharmacist, said he didn't vote for the ruling party because "they were only former military people. If I voted for them, that means I am asking my own enemy to come back into my life."
The Yangon result was not announced by the government's Union Election Commission, but the NLD has stationed representatives at counting centers and is keeping tallies that are being relayed to its headquarters. The election commission has been slow in releasing the numbers.
Earlier, Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and pro-democracy icon, urged supporters not to provoke losing rivals who mostly represent the former junta that ruled this Southeast Asian nation, also known as Burma, for a half-century.
Hours before the Yangon announcement, party spokesman Win Htein said the NLD had won about 70 percent of the votes counted by midday. Another spokesman, Nyan Win, put the number at 90 percent.
"We will win a landslide," Nyan Win told The Associated Press.
The comments, if confirmed by official results from Sunday's general election, indicate that Suu Kyi's party would not only dominate Parliament, but could also secure the presidency despite handicaps built into the constitution.
"I want Mother Suu to win in this election," said Ma Khine, a street vendor, referring to the 70-year-old Suu Kyi with an affectionate term many here use. "She has the skill to lead the country. I respect her so much. I love her. She will change our country in a very good way."
The NLD has been widely expected to finish with the largest number of seats in Parliament. A two-thirds majority would give it control over the executive posts under Myanmar's complicated parliamentary-presidency system, which also reserves 25 percent of Parliament's 664 seats for the military.
The military and the largest parties in the upper house and the lower house will each nominate one candidate for the presidential election, which will be held after Jan. 31. Then all 664 legislators will take a vote and the person with the highest number of ballots will become president, while the other two will become vice presidents. A massive majority in Parliament would allow the NLD to take the presidency and one vice presidency.
Capturing the presidency and Parliament would give the NLD power over legislation, economic policy and foreign relations, but the constitution guarantees that the military would retain control over the ministries of defense, interior and border security. Also, the military will have the power to legally block constitutional amendments.
Also, Suu Kyi cannot become the president. A constitutional amendment bars anyone with a foreign spouse or child from being president or vice president. Suu Kyi's two sons are British, as was her late husband. Suu Kyi, however, has said she will act as the country's leader if the NLD wins the presidency, saying she will be "above the president."
In any case, it was clear that the ruling Union Solidarity Development Party, made up former junta members and which has ruled as a quasi-civilian government since 2011, was facing a rout. Many of its leaders conceded personal defeats in their election bids.
In her first comments after the elections, Suu Kyi told a crowd gathered at the NLD's headquarters: "I want to remind you all that even candidates who didn't win have to accept the winners, but it is important not to provoke the candidates who didn't win to make them feel bad."
"I am so happy, and I am not the only person — the whole country is happy," said 71-year-old Khin Maung Htay, who was listening to Suu Kyi's speech. "I think she is a perfect leader for our country and a woman of perfection."
The junta, which seized power in a 1962 coup, annulled the results when Suu Kyi's party won a sweeping victory in 1990 elections. A new vote was held in 2010, but the opposition boycotted it, saying the election laws were unfair.
The USDP won by default and took office in 2011 under President Thein Sein, a former general who began political and economic reforms to end Myanmar's isolation and jump-start its moribund economy. But the USDP was battered in a 2012 by-election in which the National League for Democracy won 43 of the 44 parliamentary seats it contested.