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A young boy looks at a TV monitor showing polling results at the offices of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) after the general election in Mandalay, Myanmar, November 9, 2015. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

OLIVIA HARRIS/REUTERS

The advance of democracy is usually felt more than it is seen. In Myanmar, it has washed across the country in bright hues of red.

Dressed in the vibrant colours of the National League for Democracy – the party led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi – jubilant voters took to the streets on Monday, many of them waving red flags featuring the party's distinctive golden peacock.

They were hailing what appears to be a landslide victory for pro-democracy opponents of the military junta that has ruled the East Asian nation for decades.

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Any defeat of authoritarianism is cause for celebration. The remarkable life story of the woman known to her countrymen as Mother Suu makes this one all the sweeter.

Myanmar, formerly Burma, hasn't had a representative government since the 1960s and last held democratic elections in 1990.

The NLD won those handily, too, but the result was swiftly annulled and Ms. Suu Kyi, the Western-educated daughter of Aung San, Burma's independence hero, was consigned to house arrest in her lakeside home in Rangoon for the better part of two decades.

She was finally released in 2010, when Myanmar's military rulers were pressured into adopting reforms.

Hers is thus a historic victory, even it isn't a comprehensive one.

Myanmar's constitution – drafted by the ruling generals – forbids her from holding the presidency.

The junta also jammed another stick in the NLD's spokes: One-quarter of the legislative seats are reserved for the military, which is also clinging to several influential ministries.

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It's a testament to just how badly Myanmar's population longs for freedom that the NLD appears to have triumphed anyway; the official results won't be tabulated for some time, but the country's current military leader has said he will abide by the outcome.

Myanmar's hardships are not over. Critics point out, not unreasonably, that the NLD's policy book is thin. And any changes to the constitution will require a three-quarters parliamentary majority.

The grip of dictatorship has been loosened in Myanmar. Here's hoping it can soon be definitively broken.

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