Thursday, 5 November 2015

MYANMAR:-Elections-Aung San Suu Kyi's aspirations

When Aung San Suu Kyi's candidate emerges at a campaign rally in southern Myanmar, the crowd bursts into cheers and showers her with flowers, confident that the opposition will prevail this weekend after decades of struggle against military rulers.
The scene in the town of Myaungmya is being repeated across the country as Myanmar prepares for a historic election on Sunday that is likely to be dominated by the National League for Democracy (NLD) party of the Nobel laureate. 

The country has no opinion polls, but other parties are clearly scrambling to match the size and enthusiasm of crowds at NLD rallies. For NLD supporters, the vote will be a historic chance to right past wrongs. 

The party won a landslide in 1990, which was annulled by the junta. Suu Kyi was by then already under house arrest, which was to last most of the next twenty years. She was freed in late 2010, a few months before the military handed power to a semi-civilian government led by ex-generals who launched political reforms that led to Myanmar emerging from decades of international isolation.
Despite the euphoria around the NLD as elections approach, there are signs that all will not be smooth, even if the party comes to power. Internal dissent is one problem for the NLD, which is deeply divided despite the popularity of Suu Kyi. If the NLD wins a majority, it will seek the presidency. Suu Kyi herself is barred from the job by the constitution, but she has said she will be the leader of the government.
That could lead to a dysfunctional leadership. And the military, which has a reserved 25 percent of the seats in parliament, is not going away. The NLD itself, with little experience in power, may struggle to make the transition from political struggle to governance.
The current ruling party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is made up of influential former generals and businessmen who made their wealth through ties with the former junta. Radical Buddhist monks, who are gaining influence in Myanmar, have called on their followers not to vote for Suu Kyi, essentially allying with the USDP. 

The obstruction of political and imprisonment of civil society leaders constitute grave threats to Myanmar's democratic transition. Many people those locked up in the last two years have played key roles in bringing about democratic reforms, defending human rights, and exposing governmental misconduct. The absence of their voices in the pre-election period calls into question the government's commitment to free and fair elections.
However, the impact of the recent wave of arrests extends beyond the elections. Many activists and journalist have circumscribed their activities, taken their work underground and self-censored their written or spoken words to avoid the government's campaign of repression. The space for civil society activity is shrinking in Myanmar at a time when political freedoms are paramount importance.

The government's crackdown on dissent leaves the country unprepared for the post-election period. The democratic aspirations of Myanmar's people hinge on several dangerous months of political horse-trading as a new government is formed and takes office. During this period, civil society must serve as bulwark against authoritarianism, religious extremism and naked power grabs. 

The imprisonment of those who have taken great personal risks to advance tolerance, non-violence, and democratic ideas undermines civil society's strength and resolve to confront imminent challenges. The upcoming Sunday elections mark a watershed moment for Myanmar. However, the outlook is far from certain, and the government's recent attempt to lock away its strongest critics does not augur well for the difficult months to come.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: AFP- Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a speech at rally in Yangon