Friday, 13 November 2015

MYANMAR: Aung San Suu Kyi's electoral triumph

The party of democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi has won a majority in Myanmar parliament, the election commission said on Friday, giving it enough seats to elect the new president.

Myanmar held nationwide parliamentary elections on November, 08th . As is often the case with countries in transition, enormous hopes are trained on the election to usher in a new era of freedom. 

The National League for Democracy (NLD) is also set to take control of regional assemblies as well as forming the central government, a triumph that will reshape the political landscape. To form Myanmar's first democratically elected government since the early 1960s, the NLD needed to win more than two-thirds of seats that were contested. According the election commission NLD is well above the 221 needed to control the chamber. 

Suu Kyi's triumph will sweep out an old guard of former generals that has run Myanmar, since Thein Sein ushered in sweeping democratic and economic reforms four years ago.  It also sets the stage for cooperation between democratic activists and the army, which had fought them during half a century of iron-fisted rule before a handover to a semi-civilian government in 2011. 

U.S. President Barack Obama called Myanmar President Thein Sein on Thursday to congratulate him on successfully staging a historic general election in which democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi trounced the ruling camp. Obama also called Suu Kyi and her opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), which has won more than 80 percent of the seats declared so far in the lower house, to commend them for their success, which puts her on course to form the new cabinet. NLD is also well ahead in the upper house and regional assemblies.  

Thein Sein and the powerful army chief Min Aung Hlaing have already endorsed Suu Kyi's victory, congratulating her Wednesday on winning a majority of the seats in the first free election in 25 years.

The two reiterated their commitment to respect the result and agreed to Suu Kyi's request to hold reconciliation talks soon, although the parties are still to agree on the details. Such unambiguous endorsements of Suu Kyi's victory could smooth the lengthy post-election transition, ahead of the first session of parliament, which reconvenes on Monday.
The election was the culmination of a reform process begun by the ruling party in 2010. Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, to which she'd been confined for the better part of 20 years. The Following year, General Thein Sein Sein put on civilian clothes and began to run the country as president. Press censorship was lifted and many political prisoners were released. 

Many imagined Thein Sein to be transformative leader who recognized his country needed relief from Western sanctions. In this view, he was motivated in part by the need to offset the influence of neighboring China. the Obama's administration lifted most sanctions. President Obama visited Myanmar and welcome Thein Sein to the White House. 

Still, a period of uncertainty may be looming for former Burma because it is not clear if Suu Kyi and the generals will be able to share power easily. Whatever happens, however, Myanmar's struggle for democracy will not be over. A litany of problems awaits the new leader. One of the biggest sources of tension between Suu Kyi and the military is  the constitution.

Under the constitution drawn up by Myanmar's former junta, Suu Kyi is barred from taking the presidency because her children are foreign nationals, a clause few doubt was inserted specifically to rule her out and the constitution also guaranteed the military a quarter of the seats in Parliament and preserves its power over civilian rule. Over the summer, the ruling party purged a member of its ranks who's shown a willingness to collaborate with Suu Kyi. 

Suu Kyi has become increasingly defiant on that presidential clause as the scale of her victory has become apparent, making it clear she intends to run the country regardless of whom the NLD elects as president.

Suu Kyi is aware that Myanmar is now on the path not to democracy but ''disciplined democracy'', democracy as seen by military authoritarian leaders. Rather than the apotheosis of Myanmar's democratization, the November 8th election will begin another, more complicated phase of Myanmar's democracy movement. 

As strong showing by Suu Kyi's NLD, and a greatly expanded contingent in Parliament, may create the illusion of democracy, while the military retains ultimate control. The West will have to revise its approach with a more sober understanding of what has been happening in Myanmar.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: AFP- Aung San Suu Kyi in campaign trails in Yangon