• May Suu Kyi’s win bring about normality and progress to Burma/Myanmar


    THE victory of Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy in Myanmar (Burma) still has to be formally proclaimed at this writing. But the chairman of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, the ruling party of Burma, conceded defeat on Monday afternoon. The historic elections were held on November 8.

    NLD’s and Suu Kyi’s triumph was a landslide–they took 70% of the vote. There was an 80% voter turnout. This signaled the Myanmar people’s trust in the elections and hopes that the former military dictatorship’s reforms to make the country a normal electoral democracy are for real.

    The military backed USDP’s chief told international media that the present rulers were going to accept their defeat without reservations.

    That means Aung San Suu Kyi and her party would be able to more or less have some say in having Burma governed as a democracy and steer it into greater respectability in the world community than the present rulers, who are virtually the former military strongmen who were the country’s undemocratic tyrants since they took over Burma in a coup d’etat in 1962. At that time Burma was enjoying democracy for fourteen years, after it ceased to be a British colony in 1948.

    The military dictatorship formally ended in 2011, but the civilian rulers were mostly still former military top brass. They had shamelessly rejected the result of a general election in 1998 in which Aug San Suu Kyi and her party also won. Suu Kyi and NLD boycotted the 2010 elections and the military political party ruling Burma found that it had to embrace democracy a bit more seriously if it wanted Burma to be dealt with in earnest by the world business community.

    Senior ruling party candidates lost their parliamentary seats in this election, including Shwe Mann, the speaker of Burma’s equivalent of our House of Representatives. Before the elections, Shwe Mann was thought of as possibly the next president of Burma.

    The only districts where the USDP won were places heavily controlled by the military because of the indigenous peoples’ rebellion there, as in districts of the Kachin and Shan states.

    Even with this massive victory for her NLD party, Suu Kyi is not qualified to become president because the constitution bars persons married to foreigners from the presidency.

    But she will obviously have a say in how Burma would be governed henceforth–if the military allows her.

    The Myanmar military, its retirees who are in parliament and in government offices, as well as the major businessmen who are allies of the army, control the levers of power. They are also the more effective force in command of the country. This means Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD, no matter how large their share of the parliamentary membership is, would still have to bargain for their say in how Burma is to be governed.


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    1. The elections you have entitled in a hopeful light as “May Suu Kyi’s win bring about normality and progress”” and reported as “historic” can only be described as such if you disregard the ethnic minorities, including over 1 million Rohingya, who have been entirely disenfranchised from this process. You would also have to minimize the importance that 25% of the legislature is appointed by the military, which gives the military an effective veto over any change to the constitution. And you might not want to look too closely at which other ministers the military will appoint, according to that constitution. Is this a democracy, or a military government?

      Regardless of the outcome of this election, the Rohingya face a bleak future in Myanmar, where they are indigenous people in their ancestral home. Neither the USDP nor the NLD is doing anything to support the Rohingya right to vote – despite that Rohingyas have voted in each of the country’s previous elections. Rohingyas are oppressed in every way including state violence, mob violence, discriminatory laws, and official denial of their ethnicity’s very existence. The situation is increasingly (and fairly) being described as a genocide. Is this democracy, or tyranny?


      Frits Sollewijn

      Burma Task Force USA