YANGON, Myanmar — Voters in the secretive military-ruled nation of Myanmar cast their first ballots in 20 years on Sunday, as slim hopes for democratic reform faced an electoral system engineered to ensure that most power will remain in the hands of the junta and its political proxies.
While it remained unclear when full results would be announced — officials would only say they would come "in time" — there was little doubt that the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party would emerge with an enormous share of the parliamentary seats, despite widespread popular opposition to 48 years of military rule.
State television announced Sunday night that 57 candidates who ran against no opposition had been declared winners of seats in national and regional parliaments. Forty-three are USDP members and the others are allies of the military government. One of the winners is Foreign Minister Nyan Win, the report said.
Earlier, many voters said they simply wanted to cast their votes against the junta's politicians.
"I cannot stay home and do nothing," said Yi Yi, a 45-year-old computer technician in Yangon, the country's largest city. "I have to go out and vote against USDP. That's how I will defy them (the junta)."
Voting against them, though, may not matter very much.
The junta's proxy party, which is led by a just-retired general and has the government's enormous financial resources at its disposal, is fielding 1,112 candidates for the 1,159 seats in the two-house national parliament and 14 regional parliaments.
The largest anti-government party, the National Democratic Force, is contesting just 164 spots.