November 08 2015 at 13:50   79  

Voting unfolded smoothly in Myanmar on Sunday with no reports of violence to puncture a mood of jubilation marking the Southeast Asian nation's first free nationwide election in 25 years, its biggest stride yet in a journey to democracy from dictatorship. The party of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to win the largest share of votes cast by an electorate of about 30 million, who chose from among thousands of candidates standing for parliament and regional assemblies. But a legacy of military rule means she cannot become president after the election, even if her National League for Democracy (NLD) wins a landslide. Concern arose about the fairness of the election after activists estimated that up to 4 million people may be unable to cast a ballot. And on the eve of the poll, the NLD said a suspiciously large number of extra voting tickets had been issued in some areas, with one family in Yangon getting 38. Religious tension, fanned by Buddhist nationalists whose actions have intimidated Myanmar's Muslim minority, marred the election campaign. Still, there was a palpable sense of excitement among voters as they went to polling stations, many before dawn. "I've done my bit for change, for the emergence of democracy," said 55-year-old former teacher Daw Myint after casting her vote for the NLD in Yangon. Suu Kyi's car inched through a scrum of news photographers outside the Yangon polling station where the 70-year-old Nobel peace laureate came to vote. She was stony-faced as bodyguards shouted at people to move aside. Most of the well-wishers gathered there were lucky to get more than a glimpse of the garland in her hair. A cry of "Victory! Victory!" went up from the crowd as she went inside. Khin May Oo, 73, who voted there earlier, said he believed the country was at a turning point, but he was worried about the army: "I'm not sure whether they will accept the election results," he said.