YANGON (Reuters) - Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's party won a landslide in an election for vacant parliamentary seats, a victory she hailed on Monday as a "triumph of the people" after decades of military dictatorship.
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party won 40 of the 45 available seats in Sunday's poll, the Election Commission announced on state television, dealing a crushing blow to a ruling party created by the former military junta that kept her locked her up for 15 years.
She fell short of giving the election the full-fledged endorsement that Western countries may be seeking before lifting sanctions imposed over the former military rulers' human rights record. But her criticism of the vote was restrained, and the EU hinted it could lift some sanctions by the end of the month.
The charismatic Suu Kyi, who led the opposition to military rule for two decades, will take a seat in the lower house.
"It is not so much our triumph as a triumph of the people, who have decided that they must be involved in the political process of this country," Suu Kyi told cheering supporters at the NLD's headquarters in Yangon.
"We hope that this will be the beginning of a new era, when there will be more emphasis on the role of the people in the everyday politics of our country. We hope that all other parties that took part in the elections will be in a position to cooperate with us to create a genuinely democratic atmosphere."The contested seats account for only a small fraction of the 440-seat lower house and 224-seat senate, which both remain dominated by allies of the former military rulers.
But Suu Kyi, daughter of slain independence hero Aung San, will hold wide influence because of her huge popularity, until a full general election due in 2015.
The polls followed a year of astonishing change in a country that was under the grip of military rule for decades: the government has freed hundreds of political prisoners, held talks with ethnic minority rebels, relaxed media censorship, allowed trade unions and showed signs of pulling back from the economic and political orbit of giant neighbor China.
The European Union hinted on Monday it could undo some sanctions - imposed over the past two decades in response to human rights abuses - by the end of this month. A lifting of EU and United States embargoes could unleash a wave of investment in the resource-rich country bordering India and China.
"We do expect the foreign ministers will recognize the changes and there will be a positive signal from the Council," EU foreign affairs spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said in Brussels.
The NLD won 35 of 37 available seats in the lower house, three of six vacancies in the senate and both vacant seats in regional assemblies. The Election Commission did not announce the winners of the remaining five seats.