YANGON - Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi looked set to clinch a seat in parliament in Myanmar's third election in half a century on Sunday, a crucial test of reforms that could convince the West to end sanctions and its pariah image.
The United States and European Union have hinted that some sanctions - imposed over the past two decades in response to human rights abuses - may be lifted if the election is free and fair, unleashing a wave of investment in the impoverished but resource-rich country bordering rising powers India and China.
"My whole family voted for her and I am sure all relatives and friends of us will vote for her too," said Naw Ohn Kyi, 59, a farmer from Warthinkha.
"Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has won 65 percent of the vote so far," the official told Reuters, referring to Suu Kyi by her honorific title.
Ko Myint Aung was one of 15 constituents contacted by Reuters, who all said they had voted for Suu Kyi.
President Thein Sein, a general in the former military junta, has surprised the world with the most dramatic political reforms since the military took power in a 1962 coup in the former British colony then known as Burma.
Voters across Myanmar cast their ballots Sunday in a historic parliamentary election that could see Aung San Suu Kyi win a seat in the legislature after a decades-long fight for democracy.
Voters across Myanmar cast their ballots Sunday in a historic parliamentary election that could see Aung San Suu Kyi win a seat in the legislature after a decades-long fight for democracy. Myanmar opposition says Suu Kyi takes lead in vote The Associated Press Party says Suu Kyi wins Myanmar parliament seat Atlanta Journal Constitution Hopes High as Myanmar Casts First Vote in Two Decades on media.
While the balance of power in the parliament will not change even if the opposition wins all 45 seats up for grabs, the vote is a symbolic victory for many in the country who have lived under military rule for almost half a century.
Released in November 2010, Suu Kyi was allowed to crisscross the country to rally support for her once-banned National League for Democracy party for Sunday's race.
The NLD has fielded a candidate for every seat, with Suu Kyi representing Kawhmu, south of the former capital city of Yangon. She is running against a former military doctor.
Suu Kyi, the Nobel peace prize laureate who has been the face of the country's struggle for representative rule, won by a landslide the last time Myanmar held multiparty elections in 1990.
But the junta ignored the results and placed her under house arrest.