Unsurprising results

Results are coming in slowly from Sunday’s election in Myanmar. The live blog at the Myanmar Times seems as good a place as any to find them; it’s currently showing the National League for Democracy with 78 seats as against five for the government USDP and another five for minor parties. There’s also a map here, which looks as if it has slightly more recent data.

There’s a long way to go, but it’s not stopping anyone from celebrating: it’s clear that the NLD will win a huge majority, easily enough to swamp the 110 military representatives who sit in the 440-seat lower house. The USDP has already conceded defeat.

The surprising thing about this result is why anyone would be surprised by it. Previewing the election on Saturday, I said “the NLD needs to win two-thirds of the seats on offer for a majority. Unless there’s been some recent and radical change in the climate of opinion – for which we have no evidence – it should do so comfortably.” I claim no great prescience there; it seemed pretty obvious and uncontroversial.

Yet there’s Lindsay Murdoch (whose reports, by the way, have been essential reading) in the Age this morning saying that the NLD “decimated the ruling military-backed party in a way that few predicted.” The expressions of surprise on social media suggest that he’s right. But I confess that I’m mystified as to why.

Saying that Aung San Suu Kyi’s victory is both large and predictable is, of course, a very different thing from saying that the military will just quietly stand back and allow her to take power. They certainly didn’t in 1990, and while much has changed since then, there will be some hard bargaining ahead. But both parties will now go into that process with no doubt about which side the people are on.

Also unsurprising was the result from Croatia’s parliamentary election (see preview here). The centre-right opposition coalition has a narrow lead, 59 seats to the incumbent centre-left’s 56, but both are well short of the 76 seats needed for a majority.

The centre-left can get into the 60s with the support of representatives of ethnic minorities, but the key to the situation is the new third force, Bridge of Independent Lists, which won 19 seats. (Official results are here, but they’re not very user-friendly, even allowing for the fact that they’re in Serbo-Croat; I’ve mostly been using Wikipedia’s figures.)

Expect a lengthy period of negotiation in which the Bridge group will be courted by both sides. One report describes them as “right-leaning”, but it sounds as if they’re open to all offers – with the option of a grand coalition between the majors always there if Bridge proves too demanding.

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