ANFREL Coordinator Witnessed Myanmar Political Development in December 2011
The somewhat changed situation in Myanmar where there is more space to talk about political developments and read about activities of all other political parties in the newspapers is perhaps a reflection of what’s in store for the country’s future. But to do that there is an absolute need to make use of whatever room is available to ensure that there is more fairness in the prevailing system of governance and equal opportunities for every political party and other stakeholders to participate freely in the development of the country.
An opportune time forMyanmarto strengthen its newfound freedom (in whatever measure) is to prepare the stage for a process of clean and credible by-elections, which are scheduled for April 2012. The by-elections, which will be held to 48 electoral constituencies will also see the National League for Democracy (NLD) and its leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi contesting, which definitely augurs well for this military controlled country. It should not be forgotten though that the military still continues to influence the Parliament and the newly elected government led by the USDP.
There are reasons to believe though the military backed government under the Presidentship of U Thien Sein will be more inclined towards strengthening democracy in Myanmar. Visit by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a string of other diplomats from all over the world to Myanmar recently and their open engagements with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as well as other actors clearly goes to show the changes that are actually taking place on the ground. There remains a lot to be done but whatever little opening has been provided cannot be dismissed as a hog wash.
The By-Elections are a time for the government to prove its seriousness and probably it will accept the call for allowing foreign observers to come toMyanmarand observe the elections. If this is done then all the changes inside that are reflected through, a relatively open media, gradual release of political prisoners, more space for other political groups and freedom to civil society group to engage in political debates and discussions, will only go to prove that the government of the day is serious about the changes and ushering in a new era of democracy.