Partyforumseasia: The victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD was widely anticipated, sometimes cautiously though, in view of the deficits in the not completely free and fair voting system. But the peaceful voting process won international approval and the final triumph is probably beyond the expectations of the party itself, if not even its charismatic leader. The Lady’s more than two decades long role as martyr, democracy icon and symbol of hope has triggered this exceptional landslide victory, securing 57.95 % of the seats in the House of Representatives and 60.27 % in the House of Nationalities, the upper house. See the detailed charts below.
This gives the NLD an absolute majority even with the junta’s safeguard of 25% of the seats reserved for the army. The long rule of the generals which lasted half a century may come to an end if Aung San Suu Kyi resists any temptation of “landslide-hubris” and finds a modus vivendi with the still powerful army. But the leading generals conceding defeat and promising a smooth transfer are very positive signals.
With the huge expectations of her voters and the broader public, the emerging leadership of The Lady (“above the new President” as she declared already before the election) will be confronted with enormous political challenges. These range from the minority problems aggravated by the dismal election results for their ethnic parties to the huge deficits in infrastructure, legal framework for foreign investment, smuggling and drug trafficking black markets to possible obstruction by the civil service so far controlled by the army.
But there is another immediate and enormous challenge: The victorious NLD as a political party is hardly prepared to take over all the responsibilities of ruling the complex country in a more than complex period of her history. Switching from decades of opposition to government roles is not easy, especially for those who have suffered imprisonment and feel entitled to rule. It will be a most urgent task to select and prepare future government officials for their role, including the next president who will be coming from the NLD. Many commentators seem to deplore the long transition period and the Thein Sein administration staying on until the presidential election next spring. Partyforumseasia sees it more as a blessing and a grace period for Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD to get better prepared for their government role.
The final election results as of November 15th, 2015 (Wikipedia)
Partyforumseasia: Officially launching the NLD election campaign yesterday, 8 September, democracy icon and party leader Aung San Suu Kyi did not sound as confident of a clear victory as most observers predict it to be.
Asking the international community to monitor the election intensely and carefully shows her fears that military and USDP under president Thein Sein will try to manipulate the vote again after NLD’s accusations that the 2010 election was widely rigged. But the NLD had boycotted it anyway. As in other elections in the region before, parachuted international observers will have a limited understanding of the technicalities and equally limited access to remote areas. But an immediate effect of her appeal for international support is the anger of the military which in any outcome will have 25% of the seats in parliament and far reaching veto powers.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s widely criticized silence in the Rohingya issue was followed by a top level decision of her party not to allow Muslim candidates, even in predominantly Muslim areas. This, on the other hand, underlines her fear of antagonizing the Buddhist nationalists and their spearhead organization Ma Ba Tha, or Association for the Protection of Race and Religion.
For a decisive victory the NLD will need support from the parties of the ethnic minorities who may not be too keen to sacrifice their regional interests to the democratic battle cry of the NLD, though they all hate the military. Forging a pro-democracy and anti-military election coalition among the ninety (90) odd parties contesting this election is more than a herculean task for Aung San Suu Kyi.
Many voters are confused anyway, the NLD’s peacock symbol being used by at least half a dozen other parties as well.
Even with a sweeping victory for the NLD, Aung San Suu Kyi will have no chance to sideline the military. Ex-general and president Thein Sein has signaled his interest to run for another term in 2016 and his ouster of USDP party chairman Shwe Mann for being too cozy with Aung San Suu Kyi does not augur well for a viable arrangement between the two big players after the election.
With neighboring Thailand in a potentially explosive limbo between militarily supervised calm and democratic renewal as well as Malaysia with an increasingly shaky UMNO government, a more stable Myanmar would be preferable for the region and the investors.
Partyforumseasia: Myanmar’s democratic opening has received regional and world-wide attention and praise, and subsequently attracted the interest of all shades of businesses, from the well-known fast-buck-entrepreneurs to long-term investment interests. Especially the latter are vital for the country if it wants to catch up with the neighbors in Southeast Asia.
The recent purge within the military dominated Union Solidarity and Development Party and the sacking of rather popular speaker of parliament Shwe Mann are widely interpreted as a step back from the reform drive promised by President Thein Sein.
Now speculations for the upcoming election on 8 November start to get more heated. Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is sure that her party will win “if polls can be free and fair” (Agence France Press). And the country’s army chief, senior general Min Aung Hlaing recently declared:
“We wouldn’t mind even if the National League for Democracy won in the next general election, as long as it is free and fair. The Tatmadaw’s (Army) desire is to see the upcoming elections be held free and fair.” (Straits Times, 26/08/2015)
On the background of heavy-handed interference since the 1990 elections when the military had underestimated the NLD and simply ignored the results, such a statement sounds a bit too good to be true. At least the generals have learned to speak to the international media and the investors who want to see stability. The 2010 ballot was widely seen as rigged and a quarter of the parliamentary seats is reserved for unelected army officers anyway.
But to be fair with struggling Myanmar, organizing free and fair elections with a level playing field is certainly not as easy as in Denmark or Sweden. Ongoing problems with 135 (!!!!) distinct ethnic groups officially recognized by the government, festering and nearly intractable pockets of civil war with some of the minorities, the Rohingya question unsolved, rural underdevelopment and lack of infrastructure wide-spread, all that makes national elections more than a challenge. The definition of free and fair certainly has to be adapted to the local circumstances.
If the NLD wins a decisive majority, we have to take into account that its uncontested leader Aung San Suu Kyi is still full of fighting spirit but already 70 years old. The constitution does not allow her to be president and the president is head of the government. Details of the constitutional set-up are sobering: “The Commander-in-Chief appoints the Ministers of Defence, Home Affairs and Border Affairs, selecting candidates from within the Defence Services (Tatmadaw), while the President appoints the remainder. The President also appoints the Deputy Ministers of the respective ministries, following the same qualifications as those of Union Ministers, with the exception of age (35 years, instead of 40).” Source:Wikipedia, Cabinet of Myanmar.
On this background it may be easy for the military to look good with free-and-fair statements and that they don’t mind if the NLD wins…