News APP

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  gplay

This article was first published 8 years ago  » News » The challenges awaiting Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi

The challenges awaiting Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi

By Aditi Phadnis
November 16, 2015 11:37 IST
Get Rediff News in your Inbox:

Although Suu Kyi has won an overwhelming victory, it is not going to be easy to translate this victory into political gains, reports Aditi Phadnis

A T-shirt with Aung Sun Suu Kyi's TIME magazine cover printed hangs near the National League for Democracy headquarters in Yangon after the party secured victory in the recently concluded polls. Photograph: Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images

What are the implications of the landslide victory of Aung San Suu Kyi-led National League of Democracy for Myanmar and the South Asian region? More complex than we think.

Although Suu Kyi and the NLD have won an overwhelming victory, it is not going to be easy to translate this victory into political gains. Since one-fourth of the seats in both houses of Parliament (the assembly of the Union, or Hluttaw) are allocated to the military, the NLD will have to win two-thirds of the seats in Sunday’s vote to assure itself of a Parliamentary majority. Previous elections show this is not wholly impossible.

In 1990, the NLD had won 79 per cent of the seats, and in 2012, it got 95 per cent of the seats, on offer; although the latter election was more limited and took place in NLD strongholds. The votes are still being counted and the final result will be in on November 22. However, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party has conceded defeat. So, despite the fact that Suu Kyi cannot assume the top position (she is barred by the Constitution), it is clear that she will be in a position to direct Myanmar, even without holding the top position.

Amendments to the clauses in the Constitution preventing Suu Kyi from becoming president and requiring 75 per cent of votes in Parliament to allow amendments were blocked by the military (which reserves 25 per cent of the seats for its own appointments) in July 2015. Even with two-thirds of the seats, it won’t be easy for Suu Kyi to lead Myanmar into the transition from a military republic to a full democracy.

There are misgivings about the NLD as well. Not a single Muslim candidate was fielded by the NLD. Rohingya Muslims have been disenfranchised. Democratic participation in as many as 400 villages in ethnic states including Kachin and Karen was ‘suspended’ on grounds of security. So we don’t really know whom these villages have voted for.

Moreover, the military may have withdrawn from the active political arena but NLD will still have to negotiate with it.

There is an international factor as well. Both China and India have interest in Myanmar. With the military withdrawing, China is worried about the assets it has created in Myanmar -- from the suspension of the Myitsone hydropower project after power was nominally handed to a civilian government in 2011, to the recent cross-border spillover of military action taken by Myanmar’s armed forces against the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, an ethnic Chinese insurgent group in the Kokang Special Region.

Possibly assessing that the NLD might be growing in popularity and public acceptability, China invited Suu Kyi on a visit earlier this year that was red carpet by any stretch of imagination.

Says former ambassador M K Bhadrakumar: “Suu Kyi arrived in Beijing on June 10 on her first visit to China, a five-day visit, and by the second day, Chinese President Xi Jinping had received her at the Great Hall of the People. By that time, she had talked business with China’s foreign policy focused State Councillor Yang Jiechi. As a western report promptly took note, ‘That is the kind of all-star line-up usually lined up (by Beijing) for major national leaders, not opposition party figures’.” There is a kind of competition now on to gain Myanmar’s favours. The fact is, till the full result is out, we will not know who the ruling party is - and who the opposition is. Crowding the opposition space is also a nationalist Buddhist party. With such complex politics, there can be no simple solutions in deepening friendship with a country that is of great strategic importance to India.  

A Fighter’s Tale
1988: National League for Democracy formed, with Aung San Suu Kyi as general secretary
1989: Suu Kyi placed under house arrest, without charge or trial
1990: Despite detention of Suu Kyi, NLD wins election with 82 per cent of parliamentary seats. Myanmar authorities refuse to recognise results
1991: Aung San Suu Kyi is declared winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize
2009: Aung San Suu Kyi is named the recipient of Amnesty’s Ambassador of Conscience Award
2011 Mar: Thein Sein is sworn in as president of a new government. August Thein Sein meets Suu Kyi
2011 Oct: Some political prisoners, including comedian Zarganar, are freed in a general amnesty
2011 Dec: NLD re-registers as a political party
2012 Jan: Many political prisoners are released
2012 Apr: NLD candidates, including Suu Kyi, win 43 of 44 parliamentary seats contested in by-elections.
2012 Jun: Aung San Suu Kyi receives her Nobel peace prize in Oslo, Norway, 21 years after being awarded the prize
2015 Mar: A draft ceasefire agreement is signed between the government and 16 rebel groups.
2015 Aug: President Thein Sein dismisses rival Shwe Mann and allies from leading roles in ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says ready to work with Shwe Mann ahead of October elections
2015 Nov: Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition appears on the verge of a landslide election win that could finally reset Myanmar after decades of army control
Get Rediff News in your Inbox:
Aditi Phadnis
Source: source
India Votes 2024

India Votes 2024