BANGKOK Myanmar's pro-democracy parties conceded defeat on Tuesday in the first election in 20 years after the biggest military-backed party swept to victory to give the junta overwhelming influence in a new era of civilian rule.
The military's political juggernaut, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), closely aligned with junta supremo Than Shwe, won up to 80 percent of the seats that were up for grabs, a USDP official said, although results have not been released.
At least six parties have lodged complaints with the election commission, saying state workers were forced to vote for the USDP in advance balloting ahead of Sunday's vote, which the United States, Japan and Europe have sharply criticized.
Below are some questions and answers about what's next for resource-rich Myanmar, one of the world's most isolated and oppressive states.
WILL THE USDP DOMINATE THE NEW GOVERNMENT?
Not necessarily. Sunday's poll does not guarantee the winning party any role in cabinet. The ballot was held to elect a bicameral parliament and state assemblies only.
The cabinet will be appointed by a president, not elected by the people. And the armed forces supreme commander will choose three serving generals to head defense, interior and border affairs ministries. It is likely some incumbent ministers who contested the election under the USDP banner will retain their portfolios.
This is why critics scoff at the military junta's assertion that the new government will reflect the will of the people, the "ultimate owners" of Myanmar's sovereign power. In fact, parliament has very limited power.
WHO BECOMES PRESIDENT?
The military-dominated parliament will form three committees, each of which nominates one presidential candidate. These might be elected lawmakers, retired generals, or even ordinary citizens: the qualification criteria are extremely broad.
The presidential candidates must be civilians at least 45 years of age and Myanmar citizens who have resided in the country for a continuous period of 20 years. They must also meet the same criteria as candidates who stood in the election.
The committees, known collectively as the Presidential Electoral College, select one of the three candidates to be president. The two others will become vice-presidents.
WHO MIGHT BE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES?
That's the big question. No likely contenders for the top job have emerged, fuelling speculation the current regime has its own person in mind for the all-powerful president.
Most believe the candidates will be either junta members or their proteges, especially as one parliamentary committee nominating a candidate is entirely made up of serving officers.
One theory is that paramount leader Senior General Than Shwe will take the post, with sidekicks Maung Aye and Thura Shwe Man vice-presidents.
Some saw Than Shwe's appointment of Adjutant General Thura Myint Aung to succeed him as armed forces chief as a sign the dictator will retire. Others said it suggested he wanted the presidency.
Some believe the 77-year-old strongman is so paranoid about being purged or toppled in a coup that he can't trust anyone else to run the country. Others, however, say the job could be too demanding and he would be unwilling to carry out a president's diplomatic and public duties.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
The constitution has not stipulated a timeframe for the handover of power and the junta will remain in charge until it takes place.
Legislative assemblies are likely to be formalized, a president chosen and a cabinet appointed within a few weeks of the election, although it could take as long as three months.
Parliament must convene its first regular session within 90 days of the polls.
(Editing by Jason Szep)