So, to get back into the enthusiastic 2012 post-election mood, I suggest reading two accounts on the topic by personalities from either side – one from the presidential advisor Nay Zin Latt and one by Ko Ko Kyi, a core member of the influential ’88 Generation Students Group and former political prisoner. These articles were published as Q&A style interviews and are recommendable in order to hear out personal accounts from both sides.
Democratic progress and process
The election process has seen little irregularities and the opposition has called for investigations. The international community praised the rather flawless manner in which the elections were conducted. President Thein Sein praised the weekend elections, admitted his defeat and gave himself surprised by the scope of NLD’s victory. But considering that the military and its proxy party the USDP still control around 86% of the parliament, any plans by the rulers to seize back power by improper means seems unlikely.
Suu Kyi claims her victory as one for and by the people. Aung Zaw, editor of The Irrawaddy analyses the elections and concludes that the real winners are Thein Sein, Suu Kyi and the people who have voted in the by-elections. In my point of view, he is right. Burma has not seen such an act of fundamental democratic principles in decades, therefore the victory of the NLD and the acknowledgement by the President are good indications that Burma is on a way towards the better. This election is still piecemeal of something bigger that has to happen. The election has great significance but what follows now is even more important, therefore it would be advisable to be rather cautiously enthusiastic.
Especially in regards to the more crucial elections in 2015 much more has to be done to move closer to becoming a democracy. First of all, the oppositional candidates have to gain proper access to the parliament and should be free to participate in debates, campaign across the country and express and present their opinions via any means possible. Implementing such freedoms would push Burma further along to reach an international standard of human rights and democratic principles. Under the current constitution of 2008, this will not bear any positive results though. Too many privileges for the ruling Generals are still manifested in this document and therefore the call for amendments has never been louder than before. In order to have Suu Kyi running for the presidential election in 2015, the NLD has to push for amendments otherwise she will not be allowed to do so. This to accomplish is very unlikely going to be a walk in the park. To amend the constitution, 75% of the parliament has to show their consent otherwise nothing is going to happen. The NLD will be dependent on President Thein Sein and the USDP’s sincerity of positive progress for a shift towards democracy. If old habits prevail though, the post 2012 election time will see nothing but only a short enthusiastic period of time (like the present), followed by a dull time of empty debate and stalemate.
Professor Steinberg summarized in a short, but excellent article on the Significance of Burma/Myanmar’s By-Elections that “Progress is evident, but the processes are likely to be sporadic and uneven. The Burmese will proceed at their own pace and foreign observers can assist, but not control that process. That assistance should begin by understanding and respecting the unique dynamics of that society.” International intervention is not always bearing too much positive results. The sanctions have left the population impoverished rather than the Generals. Therefore, in order to give Burma the time it needs, the international community should watch closely, help and support where possible but stay out of affairs that are not understood as good as by the involved parties – especially in historic and cultural terms.
Suu Kyi’s way of dealing with the government will be conciliatory rather than confrontational, even calling on the Army to actively participate in the future endeavors of Burma: “According to the political experiences and incidents of Burma, I believe that the endeavors for development of Myanmar call for essential participation of the Tatmadaw (Armed Forces).” This approach will provide her with the highest chances of success in order to pursue her party’s agenda of implementing fundamental pillars of a democracy, such as the rule of law, human rights and public participation. Given the pace of change we have seen ever since the elections in November 2010, it will be interesting to see how far Suu Kyi can get until the crucial moment of the presidential elections in 2015.
Sustainable democratic leadership
Thein Sein and Suu Kyi not only share the burden and pressure from the people of Burma to bring democracy, freedom and prosperity to the country, but also of growing old and being affected by a debilitated health.
During the NLD campaign Suu Kyi has caused some worrying moments when she fell ill due to exhaustion and fatigue, caused by her tight and packed schedule. This has raised the questions about her physical suitability to run for a public position that most likely will bring her an even more or at least equal stressful and exhausting lifestyle. Suu Kyi is 66 years now and around the next presidential elections, she will be 70 years. So this might be the only chance she gets to run for this position, without causing her to risk her life (even though she has done so many times before by going back and fighting for her country).
The NLD leadership and especially Suu Kyi has to think about a successor that she will teach and instruct over the years to come in order to be prepared for the time after Suu Kyi’s active participation in daily politics.
The same for President Thein Sein; he is said to suffer a heart condition and that during visits to Singapore he got a pacemaker inserted that allows him to follow his daily duties. The problem to find a successor for him and the USDP won’t be a problem, but for him and his fragile intentions to reach the path towards democracy, it would be very advisable to install like-minded progressive politicians in higher positions, that in the future will make sure to maintain the Thein Sein way of prompt reformism.
This is the end of my elaborations and views on the post-election time. What will actually happen in Burma, we will see over the next years. I’m hoping for an infinite stream of positive news from and development within this country. After decades of struggles it does not deserve any other than the best and most sustainable way towards peace and prosperity.
 UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41690&Cr=myanmar&Cr1=