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Myanmar: One Year after the Nov 8 election

Update: November, 05/2016 - 09:00
Viet Nam News

Dr Than Htut Aung*
On November 8, the United States will host an intriguing election.

As the date draws closer, the results of the election appear harder to forecast.

In previous weeks, the likelihood of a victory by US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton appeared almost certain.

However, after the FBI revealed new (but incomplete) findings on Mrs Clinton’s emails, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has closed the gap in many of the latest election polls.

American democracy has been a model of fairness for over two hundred years.

Free and unbiased elections are the hallmarks of a democracy, giving citizens an opportunity to be heard.

On Nov 8, 2015, a historic election was held in Myanmar, which was of interest to many people around the world.

This was an election in which the military dictatorship was willing to give power to the people of Myanmar for the first time since 1962.

The people of Myanmar had high hopes for this election because it was the first time that the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party that won a landslide in the 1990 elections, returned to the ballot box.

However, there were growing concerns that the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP)- the ruling party that includes members of the military who rejected the 1990 election results - would not host free and fair elections.

There was also a worry that the USDP would not authorise a smooth transition to power in case the NLD won.

More doubts were fueled as Mr U. Tin Aye, the chairman of the election committee, had close ties to the then President, Mr Thein Sein.

As such, in the lead-up to the elections, political analysts from both home and abroad had difficulty in predicting the electoral outcomes.

Most of the voters surveyed in the rural areas said that although they did not know much about politics, they did not like the ruling USDP government. Rather, they wanted to vote for the NLD because it was led by their mother figure, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Consequently, because the ruling government did not rig the results of the election, the NLD won 82 per cent of the four hundreds seats in parliament, while the USDP won less than 10 per cent.

Worries over the smooth transition of power were also quelled after members of the NLD attended the first parliamentary session and consequently formed the executive in April 2016.

Although the constitution could not be amended to allow Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to become President, she was given the title of State Counselor and became the de facto leader of the government.

Many people thought that the major hurdle would be the smooth transition to power but the real problems arose after the NLD formed the government.

A year after the historic elections in 2015, the public is disappointed by the NLD’s policies and principles.

Despite several peace talks, the conflicts within the country have escalated over the past few months and gunshots are now being heard in previously peaceful areas.

In northern Rakhine state, in the predominantly Muslim areas, violence and extremism have resurfaced.

Across the country, commodity prices have increased at an alarming rate and inflation is in the double digits. The government has been largely unable to address the problem of growing income inequality.

Demonstrations and protests have occurred in numerous places and for a variety of reasons.

The NLD has also failed to tackle corruption and crony capitalism that was prevalent in the previous government.

Citizens have become disappointed with the close ties that some members of the NLD formed with crony capitalists.

The newly elected NLD officials’ rosy relations with the corrupt officials from the previous bureaucracy are grave concerns for the Myanmar people.

In social media, stories have circulated about a newly elected minister, making just US$2,500 a month, being seen wearing a US$100,000 Patek Philippe watch.

For many Myanmar people who make US$2 a day, this is a source of great disbelief and resentment.

The individual who allegedly gave this ‘gift’ to the elected minister was recently released from jail after serving time for his involvement in a drugs case. After the NLD came into power, this individual’s project for building a new city, received an approval.

Still, one year after the election, although the government has shown despicable behaviour, many of the Myanmar people are still hopeful that change will come. And they are optimistic that the government will delegate responsibility and power.

Elections are just one component of a democracy. The Myanmar people have still not tasted the full flavour of democracy, which includes the rule of law, fair judicial system, and clean governance. The relative quietness and acceptance by the Myanmar people to these pressing issues is a source of great astonishment.

There is great anticipation regarding the United State election on November 8.

In a similar vein, a year after the elections of Nov 8 last year, the people of Myanmar are still anxiously waiting for the reforms that the NLD government promised and the perceived celestial powers that they believe Ms Suu Kyi is capable of wielding.

We are still hoping.

We are still waiting. -- Eleven Media/ANN

* The writer is CEO of Eleven Media Group, Myanmar and a Board member of the Asia News Network. This is a series of columns on global affairs written by top editors from ANN members and published in newspapers across the region.

Than Htut Aung,CEO of Eleven Media Group, Myanmar

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