Suu Kyi Vows Victory in Election As Campaign Starts despite Virus Surge

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi launched her re-election bid on Tuesday ahead of polls scheduled for November, vowing victory at a scaled-down ceremony in the capital after a surge in coronavirus cases scuppered her original plans, Reuters reports.

“Today, our victory campaign has begun,” she said, before hoisting the party’s flag at the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters in Naypyitaw at an event broadcast on her Facebook page.

The election is expected to serve as a test of the country's first democratic government in half a century, and analysts see it as a significant test of Myanmar's transition away from authoritarian military rule as it faces multiple fronts with crises.

Suu Kyi, who rules as a state advisor, had intended to begin her campaign in Yangon's commercial capital but canceled Monday's trip on the advice of the Ministry of Health.

Wearing a red mask adorned with a peacock, the NLD logo, and a plastic face shield, she thanked supporters for raising the party's red flag around the country at their homes.

“I’d like to say that to make our victory flag long-lasting means making the nation’s peace, development, and prosperity long-lasting,” she said.

The NLD, which won a landslide at the 2015 polls that ended half a century of military and military-backed rule, is predicted to win by a smaller margin once again.

The party remains overwhelmingly influential amid criticism for failing to curb the army's power or ending the worsening ethnic conflicts. It has also faced international criticism of a military crackdown on the Muslim Rohingya minority in 2017.

Preparations for the Nov. 8 polls have been overshadowed by a worsening coronavirus outbreak which adds pressure on the economy. The World Bank has projected economic growth this financial year falling from 6.8 percent to just 0.5 percent.

The country had gone for weeks without a local transmission and several restrictions were relaxed until mid-August when cases were found in Rakhine's western state.

Since then the number of cases has tripled to 1,562 with eight fatalities. Tuesday the Ministry of Health reported 93 new cases.

Authorities have imposed a second partial lockout in Yangon, issuing residence-at-home orders for select townships and prohibiting restaurants and bars from dine-in services. Schools were closed throughout the world, and flights in and out are limited.

Officials sealed off the capital, Naypyitaw, where the government is located, last week enforcing compulsory quarantine and coronavirus tests on any visitors.

More than 50 people have been barred from meeting, and political parties say they are planning smaller campaign events.  


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