ANKARA

Vote count began on Sunday as polls in Myanmar, the second since the 50-year-long military rule ended in 2011, closed, local media reported.

Queues formed before polling stations as millions of voters wearing masks and observing social distancing cast their ballots in around 50,000 polling stations set up across the country.

Voting began at 6 a.m. local time (2330GMT Saturday) and closed at 4 p.m. (0930GMT). More than 37 million people in the country of 56 million were eligible to vote.

A total of 5,643 candidates representing more than 90 parties contested for 1,171 national, state, and regional seats.

State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy, which won a landslide victory in 2015, is expected to win a second term amid allegations of the genocide of the persecuted Rohingya minority.

Myanmar’s bicameral parliament, Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, is divided into the Amyotha Hluttaw, the 224-member House of Nationalities or upper house – and the Pyithu Hluttaw, the lower House of Representatives with 440 seats.

The Buddhist-majority country’s powerful military, also known as Tatmadaw, is allocated 25% unelected parliament seats. It controls key ministries including interior affairs and has veto power on constitutional issues.

There are regional legislative assemblies and governments in each of the seven states and seven regions of the country.

The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party is the main opposition to Suu Kyi.

Myanmar Times reported that Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing has cast his vote in the capital, Naypyitaw.
The military commander, who has extraordinary political influence, said: “I will accept the results of the elections. We can’t deny it.”

Myanmar has faced severe criticism for oppressing opposition, including journalists, student protesters and denying voting rights to the Rohingya.

More than 740,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar into neighboring Bangladesh in 2016 and 2017 as the military waged a campaign of violence in Rakhine state.

Rohingya survivors have recounted harrowing atrocities including gang rapes, mass killings, torture, and widespread destruction of property at the hands of the army.

The Southeast Asian nation has so far reported 60,348 coronavirus cases, including 1,396 deaths.

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