In a historic election, Myanmar’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) conceded defeat to the National League for Democracy (NLD) on Sunday. Yet Myanmar’s constitution prevents Nobel laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from taking the presidential office.
Suu Kyi told the BBC she expects the NLD to win 75% of the seats in parlaiment. As the votes still trickle in, she said no matter who is appointed the presidency, she will be “making all the decisions as the leader of the winning party” She told Channel News Asia that the next president would have “no authority”.
Myanmar’s citizens react to the election results with excitement and high expectations.
The military junta wrote the constitution in 2008. A provision disallowing those with foreign offspring to hold the presidency seems aimed directly at Suu Kyi. Provisions also ensure the military holds 25% of the seats in parlaiment, require a 75% majority to change the constitution, allow no legislative scrutiny of military budgets, and ensure that only military men can head important cabinet positions.
The junta’s brutal suppression of protesters in 1988 led Suu Kyi to speak out.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch says, “The NLD’s big victory is best seen as the first step of a negotiation that is going to play out in the coming weeks and months between the elected power of the NLD, and entrenched, constitutionally guaranteed military power.”
Suu Kyi is the central leader in Myanmar’s struggle for democratic rule. After living in the West for decades, she returned to care for her dying mother in 1988. Upon witnessing U Ne Win’s slaughter of protesters, Suu Kyi began speaking out against the dictator. Her commitment to democracy and human rights led her to win over 80% of parlaimentary seats in a 1990 election and a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. The ruling junta ignored the election. Still, Suu Kyi’s determination has been unwavering, despite suffering for 15 years under house arrest.
Aung San Suu Kyi casts her ballot.
Since the junta allowed elections in 2010, Western nations have eased sanctions and business has improved in the poor nation, motivating the military to continue its slow drift towards democratic rule. Suu Kyi does not expect the military to steal her victory, as they did in 1990. She said Myanmar’s citizens are too politically aware and that new forms of communication limit governmental abuse. “They’ve been saying repeatedly they’ll respect the will of the people and that they will implement the results of the election.”
“The difference between the parties is huge. It’s a clear win,” said Sitida, a 37-year-old Buddhist monk who was sentenced to 70 years in prison for protesting in 2007, only to be given amnesty in the political reforms of 2011. “Daw Suu can make this happen. Daw Suu can convince them,” he said, using an honorific to refer to Suu Kyi.
I am a beat reporter here at The Daily Voice, and a writer and editor for DailyTwoCents.com and Writedge.com. My interests are wide ranging outside of the virtual newsroom, yet here I mainly focus on serious world news and commentary. I graduated from the University of Washington with a B.A. in history.