Myanmar a year after the historic election
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. It 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 by a landslide in the 1990 elections, returned to the ballot box.
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 percent of the 400 seats in parliament, while the USDP won less than 10 percent.
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 last April.
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 election, 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 the northern state of Rakhine, 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 the corruption and crony capitalism that were prevalent in the previous government.
Citizens have become disappointed with the close ties that some NLD members 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 $2,500 a month, being seen wearing a $100,000 Patek Philippe watch. For many Myanmar people who make $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 to power, this individual’s project for building a new city was approved.
Still, one year after the election, although the government has shown despicable behavior, 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 flavor of democracy, which includes the rule of law, fair judicial system, and clean governance. Their relatively quiet acceptance of these pressing issues is a source of great astonishment.
There is great anticipation regarding the US elections on Nov 8.
In a similar vein, a year after the elections of Nov. 8, 2015, 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.
Than Htut Aung is CEO of Eleven Media Group, Myanmar, and a board member of the Asia News Network.