Burma’s elections: dictatorship in retreat – not yet
This week’s elections in Burma marked a new beginning for the country. 20 years after the legitimate winner Aung San Suu Kyi and her party the National League for Democracy were denied the right to govern, the military junta organised elections. Yet far from free and fair.
It was not election, it was an attempt to transform the political power of the repressive junta into more internationally acceptable form of government. Yet, we should make no mistakes, with massive vote-rigging, the political opposition in prison, ministerial posts and 25% of the MP seats reserved for the generals how could these elections bring a change for the better?
Oppressive regimes do not easily give up power, and if forced to do so by internal and international circumstances, they do their best to retain positions, transform it and hold economic levers that would guarantee a never-ending transition to democracy and freedom. They would also use all propaganda, information eclipse, underground and criminal measures to stop change from happening. We have seen it in Russia and former Soviet Union, we have seen it in Eastern Europe and parts of Africa . Make no mistake that the recent elections in Burma are totally intended to do the same. SO is the release of Aung San Suu Kyi – aimed at taming the international critical reaction to the elections.
I will observe most curiously what will happen from now on. The post-election violence and the tens of thousand refugees to Thailand are not very good sign. Nor is the continued isolation of the country from international affairs (excluding arms trade with China). Mentioning this Asian Super reminds me that it will be another obstacle from Burmese democracy. The communists hold to their undemocratic ways will not easily allow a change in either Burma or North Korea. The more the dictatorships, the more comfortable dictators feel. It is enough that this week the EU waived visas for Taiwan , citing its democratic achievements and OECD-commensurate development.
While I do not expect that the newly released Burmese democratic leader undertakes any decisive steps right now. Rather, I would expect the quelled opposition slowly gains confidence and change key elements of the institutional set up of the country, such as election law, organization of army and police, as well as international representation. This will be a hard task, but sooner or later it will happen. I hope this time with no blood.