1 Apr 2012

Polls close in key Myanmar elections

10:05 pm on 1 April 2012

Voting has closed in Myanmar in crucial by-elections that could lead to an easing of Western sanctions against the Southeast Asian nation.

Opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, and members of her National League for Democracy party, are among those expected to enter parliament.

The BBC reports that her party is competing for all 45 seats.

Seventeen parties with 160 candidates are contesting the poll, along with eight independents.

Ms Suu Kyi is free to stand as a candidate for the first time, having been under house arrest during the 1990 and 2010 elections.

The ABC reports that there have already been allegations of widespread campaign irregularities which have called into question the fairness of the elections.

Ms Suu Kyi herself has said the poll is not free and fair.

The elections are being widely regarded as a step towards progress, amid continuing calls for genuine democratic reform.

The BBC reports that foreign journalists and international observers were given the widest access they have ever had in Myanmar, with more than 100 foreign journalists believed to have received permission to cover the vote.

The European Union has hinted that it could ease some sanctions if the vote goes smoothly.

Analysts say early indications point to a very high turnout.