Friday, December 3, 2010

Restoration of Democracy in Myanmar

The multiparty democracy general elections in Myanmar have successfully been held. Voters in the secretive military-ruled nation of Myanmar cast their first ballots in two decades, as slim hopes for democratic reform faced an electoral system engineered to ensure that most power will remain in the hands of the junta and its political proxies. Approximately 29 million people contributed their votes in the elections in Myanmar on 7 November. But the question here has been raised whether it would really get democracy. Many believed that by holding the election in the country, Myanmar stepped towards change in the nation which has been under military dictatorships since 1962.

The voters have elected their representatives freely of their own accord. The election commission and subcommissions at various levels have carried out election processes in line with the election laws, rules and procedures and are announcing the number of votes got by an individual Hluttaw representative.

It is, however, learned that some political parties and foreign media are releasing their statements leveling accusations that there has been disagreement among the public over the election results due to the advance votes.

Landslide Victory for USDP
The pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has won Myanmar's elections after gaining 76.5 percent of seats across the three parliaments, according to the country's supreme election authority.

The results arrived 11 days after Burmese went to the polls for the first time in two decades, but come as little surprise: the USDP was the strongest contender by a stretch, and received the tacit support of the ruling junta, who choreographed election conditions that appeared to favor the party.

Trailing the USDP, which won 883 of the total 1,154 seats, is the National Unity Party (NUP), which came runner-up in the last polls. Also holding close ties to the ruling junta, the NUP won only 63 seats, the China-based People's Daily quoted the Election Commission (EC) as saying.
The next four parties all fall within the 'opposition' bracket, despite fears before the polls that any pro-democracy candidates would be altogether sidelined. However, the total amount of seats won by these parties makes up only nine percent of the total.

They are, in order: the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), with 57 seats; the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) with 35 seats, and the National Democratic Force (NDF) and All Mon Region Democracy Party (AMRDP), each with 16 seats.

The presence of three ethnic-based parties in the top five are a symbolic victory for Myanmar's long-marginalised ethnic groups, although their potential clout in a post-election will likely be very limited.

The three parliaments -- the People's Parliament, the Nationalities Parliament and the Regions and States Parliament -- are set to convene within 90 days of the vote. A quarter of the seats for each had already been reserved for the military prior to the vote.

It is the winner, the USDP, which has been the target of much of the controversy that dogged the polls. A number of parties are weighing up the possibility of making a formal complaint to the EC about the USDP, but that is both expensive and dangerous, with complainants risking jail terms if unsuccessful.

However, Western countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Australia, along with the administrations of the European Union and the United Nations, have joined in saying the junta's elections held on November 7 were neither free nor fair and had failed to meet even the lowest standards outlined by the international community for convening a national vote.

Aung San Suu Kyi Released
Myanmar's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, freed from seven years of house arrest, told thousands of wildly cheering supporters on Sunday that she would continue to fight for human rights and the rule of law in the military-ruled nation. It was feared that her detention could be extended in view of the pending declaration of the full results of the elections held on November 7 under the new constitution drafted by the military regime. Suu Kyi has completed 15 years of her detention by the military regime since 1989, when she returned from the United Kingdom and won Myanmar’s (then Burma) first democratic elections.

India has broken its deafening silence on Myanmar and welcomed pro-democracy icon and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s release.

Relations With India
The Indian policy in Myanmar has swung from one extreme to another. Initially, India supported the pro-democracy forces led by Aung San Suu Kyi. Subsequently, alarmed by the Chinese inroads into Myanmar, India swung to the other extreme of total support to the military Junta. This meant maintaining a silence on the Junta's suppression of the pro-democracy forces and its arrest and detention of Suu Kyi and its machinations to ensure that she can never come to power.

The time has come for India to adopt a more nuanced political approach while continuing the present policy of economic support to the regime. The objective of the nuanced political approach should be to nudge the Junta to respond positively to Suu Kyi's moves for a national reconciliation and enter into a dialogue with the pro-democracy forces. Another objective should be to persuade the pro-democracy forces to avoid a confrontational situation which could add to the fears of the Junta regarding internal security and stability.

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