Christof Lehmann – nsnbc. Even though the Electoral Commission of Myanmar has not yet confirmed the result of Myanmar´s parliamentary by-elections it stands clear, that the National League for Democracy (NLD) has won if not an all out, than at least a significant and unambiguous victory. NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent most of the last 22 years of her life under house arrest gave a cheerful, positive, but also sobering and unifying speech before thousands of people who chanted her name. “It is not as much a personal victory, as it is a victory for the people who decided that they wanted to take part in the leadership of the country” she said, much conform with Asian culture, which contrary to Western culture leaves far less room for inflated egos. It was a personal victory for Suu Kyi, no doubt about it, and it was a land slide victory for the people of Myanmar too. Suu Kyi also warned her supporters to celebrate the NLD victory with decency, and not to denigrate those who did not gain enough public support to be elected to the parliament.
Even though the election victory will initiate a new period in Myanmar´s history, it is clear that the by-election victory is just that – a won by-election -, that the military will dominate the parliament even though the NLD has won as good as all seats that could be won by civilian candidates, and that the NLD will have to seek the best possible cooperation with both the military leadership and other political parties in Myanmar. The military will, and with good reason, maintain it´s dominant position until it is evident that political parties would be able to maintain stability in a country that is facing extreme internal and external challenges, divisions and conflicts.
Myanmar´s Southern provinces are as plagued by fundamentalist Islamic radicals as Southern Thailand. The Karen State, bordering NW Thailand has experiences a low intensity armed conflict for decades. “Some” of the Buddhist monasteries in Myanmar are highly politicized and not always in the best interest of Myanmar. The CIA and other Western, civilian and military intelligence services have used and are making use of Myanmar for producing and shipping large quantities of Heroin to the West, and Myanmar has, a geo-political and geo-strategic position that, regardless it´s orientation to the East or the West makes it a front-line state between Chinese and Western hegemonic ambitions. The military is, in spite of it´s lack of popularity, and in spite of it´s bad human rights track record the factor that has secured the integrity of Myanmar as a national state for decades, and it is likely to maintain precisely that position until the military leadership is convinced that pluralistic and democratic parties and institutions are able to maintain that internal and external stability.
Advisor to President Thein Sein, Nay Zin Latt, informed international media that the government was not surprised that the NLD had won the majority of seats in the by-election, and he stated that Suu Kyi very well may be given any position of responsibility because of her capacities.
Over the past year Myanmar has undergone significant political change, and it is evident that the military is actively pursuing a balancing act between reforms and maintaining security and stability. Many of the military leaders have given up their military carrier and are actively pursuing a civilian political carrier. Many political prisoners have been released, cease fire agreements have been signed with separatist and so called “rebel” movements.
To convince both Western and Asian nations about the transparency of the elections and the commitment to reforming the country, the military government has invited election observers from both Asian and Western nations, and it has granted visas to hundreds of foreign journalists.
Maybe it is exactly because of this openness, as well as the lack of experience in electoral processes, that the elections flaws are openly debatable and debated. An observer from the European Union called the elections convincing enough. Convincing enough is, off course, not perfect, but was the election between Bush and Gore perfect ?
Regardless a few flaws, and regardless the fact that the military maintains a significant grip on power, one thing is clear. Myanmar is undergoing significant change and positive change. What Myanmar needs is respect for it´s national sovereignty. International support and integration rather than hegemonic agendas; understanding for the fact that Myanmar has armed insurgencies to combat, insurgencies, which can not maintain their wars without foreign aid; in other words, Myanmar needs exactly that, what most nations who are front-line states between Western and Eastern hegemonic spheres lack – the possibility to determine it´s own future without overt or covert pressure and interventions. That given, Myanmar can develop into an Asian Pearl – in a perfect world – I wish the people of Myanmar the best of luck, knowing that they badly need it.