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Homechevron_rightOpinionchevron_rightEditorialchevron_rightSparking hopes of...

Sparking hopes of democracy in Myanmar

Sparking hopes of democracy in Myanmar

Aung San Suu Kyi led National League for Democracy (NLD) is on the verge of securing a landslide victory in Myanmar’s historic polls with the nation voting to end a half-century long military rule and moving towards greater democracy.

In the closely watched elections, the first since the end of five decades of military rule, people of Myanmar voted out the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party from power enabling NLD the opposition party to secure 179 seats out of 216 in the upper house and 7 out of 88 seats in the lower house in the 664-member parliament so far. The election results would be officially announced only on 22 of this month. If the NLD secures a two-thirds majority in the parliament, it will gain control over the executive posts under Myanmar’s complicated parliamentary-presidency system. Suu Kyi, a pro-democracy crusader and Nobel laureate has been under house arrest by Myanmar’s general for two decades. Thein Sein, the general-turned-president and Gen Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief, have congratulated Suu Kyi and her party for the huge majority in the polls. The leader of the opposition in a letter to the president has urged for a ‘peaceful transfer of power in accordance with the legislated timeline’. The president has given his assurance in the reply easing off the concerns that the military might deny the NDL from coming to power as it did when the party led by Suu Kyi won a huge majority in the 1990 elections. The military establishment has also said that it would respect the final outcome of the elections. Even though unbiased elections ensure smooth and peaceful transfer of power in almost all democratic countries in Asia, the history of Myanmar since half a century doesn’t give any positive hopes despite the outcome of polls. The country is still in the hands of autocratic military-backed government.

Even though transfer of power into a democratic system occurred with much pomp in 2011, the constitution formed by the military hinders the process. One fourth of the seats to the governing bodies are filled by the military leadership without any polls. The winning party has to have two thirds majority in the parliament. Under the present constitution, it’s the army chief who appoints the three key ministerial portfolios of interior, defence and border areas. It would almost be impossible to implement the interests of the people regardless of who comes to power without the complete cooperation and support of the military. It was the military agenda that played behind the Union Solidarity Government Party which was formed with an aim of ending the military governance. Burma’s military establishment is an extremely politicized institution. Besides politics, trade and financial dealings are also an inevitable part of the system. Banking, textile, bus services, liquor production, pearl-coral resources are also under the military. Myanmar’s constitution was amended by the military-backed government specifically to prevent Suu Kyi from taking up the executive post. A clause in the constitution says that no person with a foreign spouse and children could become the president. Suu Kyi’s late husband and two sons are British. The matter of foreign family ties would surely be raised as a hindrance in her path to governance.

Suu Kyi and her party are least likely to spoil for a fight with the military agenda. During her campaigns, she had made clear that she didn’t believe in harassments and retribution. But at the same time, she had stressed the need for an essential change in the existing constitution. Suu Kyi argues that the party with parliamentary majority had the right to decide the president and that the ‘president would have to act in accordance with the positions of the party’. In short she has expressed her disagreement towards the present scenario of the president being a mere ceremonial position and the military heads taking control of power. It has to be seen whether the military leadership would try sabotaging the democratic process that is closely watched by the world. Even after coming to power through a consensus, transforming the nation into a democratic order without any delay is also least likely to happen because the country after freeing it from the British colonial forces went into the hands of the brutal military rule. Democratic culture of any kind wasn’t permitted to grow and progress, so far. Racial and religious divides has turned the nation’s undercurrents morbid. The attempts of the Western forces to bring the nation onto the right track by imposing penalizing measures like economic sanctions had gone futile. If the present opportunity isn’t utilized sensibly, it’s meaningless to anticipate any signs of democracy in the country.

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