Story highlights

Hillary Clinton stresses her own key role in nudging the former generals in charge of Myanmar

Experts say Clinton's role was important, but local and geopolitical factors had larger effect

Washington CNN  — 

Hillary Clinton is claiming a share of the credit after elections in Myanmar delivered a landslide win for the democratic opposition.

The results from Sunday’s vote came after a political opening that Clinton helped nurture and that forms a central part of her legacy as secretary of state.

The Democratic front-runner released a statement that was careful to note remaining obstacles to full democracy in the Southeast Asian nation and to share credit with her old boss, President Barack Obama.

But she also stressed her own key role in nudging the former generals in charge of Myanmar, also known as Burma, toward reform, hinting at the importance of the election to her own political prospects, given that her time as the top U.S. diplomat lacks a long list of clear diplomatic triumphs.

Clinton is likely to use the election in Myanmar to fend off claims by Republicans – who universally targeted her at their latest campaign debate on Tuesday night – that her tenure as secretary of state was an unmitigated disaster, following reversals on the “reset” of relations with Russia that she managed and the Western intervention in Libya.

READ: Myanmar election: Suu Kyi to meet with President

“The Burmese election on Sunday was an important, though imperfect, step forward in the country’s long journey toward democracy,” Clinton said in a statement issued on Wednesday night. “It was also an affirmation of the indispensable role the United States can and should play in the world as a champion of peace and progress.”

A long road ahead

Though final results are not yet in, the election delivered a huge victory for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy and a defeat for the military establishment that has ruled the country for decades.

Though Suu Kyi is prevented by the constitution from becoming president, she has indicated she will nominate a figurehead from her party for the post and she experts to effectively rule the country as the power behind the throne.

Clinton stressed that one election does not a democracy make and that the country has a long road ahead on national reconciliation and constitutional reform. But she said promoting political change in a nation like Myanmar was exactly the kind of goal that U.S. foreign policy should pursue – arguing for not just her record but her approach to geopolitics.

“When I was Secretary of State, President Obama and I worked with Aung San Suu Kyi and others on the ground in Burma to nurture flickers of progress into a real opening,” Clinton said, praising the Burmese people for their determination. “As President, I will ensure that the United States continues to stand with them and with everyone around the world who seeks liberty and dignity.”

The ‘tantalizing’ prospect of democracy

The Myanmar election also represents a gain for Obama’s policy of rebalancing U.S. foreign policy toward Asia and his signature strategy of being willing to talk to American foes – like Myanmar’s military leaders – as he prepares for a trip to Asia next week.