Myanmar holds historic election


YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar goes to the polls Sunday in an historic election that could thrust Aung San Suu Kyi's pro-democracy party into power and pull the country away from the grip of the military.

The Southeast Asian nation was ruled for five decades by a brutal junta that smothered opponents with violence, jail and political sleight of hand.

But in 2011 the junta suddenly handed power to a semi-civilian government led by former generals.

Sweeping reforms since have loosened the straitjack­eted economy and brought many freedoms to an isolated, wearied people – including the release of most political prisoners.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party believes a fair vote will power it into government. It is the first election the party has contested since 1990, when the NLD claimed a landslide only to see the army ignore the result and condemn Suu Kyi to spend most of the next 20 years under house arrest.

Suu Kyi – affectiona­tely known as “Mother Suu” – towers over the country's democracy movement, acting as a galvanisin­g force for the NLD.

But the 70-year-old Suu Kyi is barred from the presidency by a constituti­onal clause believed to have been inserted by the army drafters specifical­ly to hamper her political rise.

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