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Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi waves to the crowd as she leaves National League for Democracy headquarters after addressing journalists and supporters. Suu Kyi hailed a "new era" for Myanmar and called for a show of political unity after her party claimed a major victory in landmark by-elections.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT / AFP/Getty Images

A woman casts her vote in Mayangone township. Millions of Myanmar's people, who have been under military rule for decades, headed to vote in a by-election that could bring democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, 66, into parliament. It is the first election the Nobel Peace Prize laureate has contested, as she was under house arrest during Myanmar's last two general elections in 1990 and 2010.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: NYEIN CHAN NAING / European Pressphoto Agency

Supporters follow opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on her way to the constituency where she stands as a candidate in the parliamentary by-elections in Kawhmu, outside Yangon.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT / AFP/Getty Images

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi receives flowers from supporters on her way to a campaign rally.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT / AFP/Getty Images

Nuns ride on the back of a truck with National League for Democracy supporters as they follow Aung San Suu Kyi on the eve of parliamentary elections.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

A woman receives help as she votes. The historical by-elections are seen as an important vote of confidence for the country as it continues on the road to political and diplomatic reform.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

A supporter kisses Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy, as she visits polling stations in her constituency.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Getty Images

Burmese wait in line to vote.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

Burmese watch as votes are counted at a polling station.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

National League for Democracy supporters celebrate their victory outside the party headquarters.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

Buddhist monks stand outside their monastery opposite a polling station in the constituency where opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is a candidate.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT / AFP/Getty Images

Supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy celebrate outside the party's headquarters.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: SOE THAN WIN / AFP/Getty Images

Election officials count ballots at a polling station.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: SOE THAN WIN / AFP/Getty Images

A graphic designer of the Weekly Eleven newspaper looks at a film of the next morning's edition at midnight.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Altaf Qadri / Associated Press

A hawker sells newspapers a day after landmark by-elections.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Altaf Qadri / Associated Press

A man films Aung San Suu Kyi as she arrives at a polling station.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Altaf Qadri / Associated Press

Buddhist monks carry their bowls as they walk for alms early in the morning.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: YEAUNGTHU / AFP/Getty Images

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The people of Myanmar got their first taste of democracy in two decades Sunday, with unofficial results showing they had elected popular opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament in the process that ushered in a new era for the long-isolated Southeast Asian nation.

Despite Suu Kyi’s larger-than-life presence in Myanmar, also known as Burma, the apparent victory marks the first time she will hold office; she was under house arrest during general elections in 1990 and the tainted elections of 2010. Crowds erupted in cheers Sunday evening when word of her victory flashed on a giant screen outside her National League for Democracy headquarters. Supporters, faces covered in party stickers, danced in the streets as passengers on passing buses high-fived pedestrians out the window.

Voting in the by-elections was generally peaceful Sunday amid some allegations of vote tampering and harassment. The pro-military government hopes any shortcomings will be seen as minor enough to convince Western nations it is time to drop crippling economic sanctions.

Read the full story: Myanmar democracy figure wins parliament seat, early results show

– Gabrielle Paluch and Mark Magnier

1 Comment

  1. April 4, 2012, 2:09 am

    For a nation war torn, desperately poor and full of human tradgedy, this is surely the best news in a long time. Suu Kyi’s years of imprisonment and self sacrifice have not been in vain. As someone who has lived in the Region for the last 15 years or so this this day is an emotional one.

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