Myanmar’s Democratic Mystery

One of the most puzzling developments of the past five years has been the transformation in Myanmar. After decades of an authoritarian form of domestic governance and relative isolation from international relations, the ruling military group, or caste, decided to gradually reform the country, and to open it up. Domestically, a process of democratization was initiated and accepted. The recent parliamentary election produced a landslide result for the oppositional NDL party under Aung San Suu Kyi who now has a defining majority. Externally, the long cooperation with, or rather dependency on Chinese projects in the fields of water management, infrastructure and trade (especially lumber and jade) was reduced, and the country has opened up to Western partners and other neighbors.

The question is this week: How can we explain this shift that was not produced by collapse or external pressure, and what can we learn from this (if anything) for the potential future of other authoritarian systems?

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  1. Alexei Voskressenski 4 years ago

    The last elections in Myanmar just prove that at least in Eastern Asia, a transition to the system of open access is a solid regional trend. This helps to explain the rise of Asia in terms of economics and politics globally. However the implications of elections in Myanmar though important regionally may still have a limited influence in other macro regions.

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  1. Ye Shengxuan 4 years ago

    We had better remain prudently optimistic about Myanmar's future democratic transition, because there are a large number of uncertainties concerning Myanmar's political development. The rise of democratic power domestically and the strong supports from western powers can be taken into consideration when we analyze Myanmar's democratization process, besides, the power struggle between China and U.S. in Myanmar should also be stressed.

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  2. Martin 4 years ago

    Greetings from Myanmar!

    It is really encouraging to see Myanmar having almost a nationwide election In Nov 2015 and yet as many expected National League for Democracy - NLD party , led by Daw Ag San Suu Kyi, won by landslide.
    Today, The people of Myanmar and spectators from international societies are excited by this dramatic democratization and how the elected government will proceed forward.

    First of all, Myanmar is a deeply divided society. When we are looking towards reconciliation and nation building, there must be a consensus in place concerning with the nature and the character of the state. A few hours ago, a draft framework for political dialogue came to light and we need to look at it. For a deeply divided society like Myanmar, we will face challenges in balancing small ethnic minorities rights , majority rights and the human rights.

    NLD already announced that they will use the national reconciliation policy which indicate that peace and reconciliation is at the top of the agenda. Aunty Suu embracing myanmar citizens to join the nation building and this is one of the many indications of institutional development.

    Institutional arrangements such as decentralization and federalization must be in place not only in national level but also in states as well as city and township levels: across all government institutions mainly Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of defense and Ministry of immigration and population.

    We must acknowledge the role of Military and the President Thein Sein in shaping the new democratic era.
    Myanmar is about to welcoming the world yet first needed to sort out its own priorities.
    As a last note, Myanmar need sincere help and support from international societies during this democratization process.

    Martin Tuang
    Myanmar Scholarship Alumni Association

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  3. Pyone Pann Pwint 2 years ago

    The military government of Myanmar, who had ruled the country for over five decades decided to transform the country towards democracy. Actually, it was not the unexpected outcome. Alongside with external pressures and supports, in 2003, ex-General Khin Nyunt of Myanmar had already provided “the Seven Steps Roadmap” to restore democracy. It includes to reassemble the National Convention, to draw the draft constitution, to hold the referendum for constitution (which later known as 2008 Constitution), to hold free and fair election and to call for the parliament with whom are elected. However, the first parliamentary term was not so democratic since the president and many of the parliamentarians were the retired generals from the army. The sincerity of the military leaders concerning the gradual process of power hand-over to the democratic civilian government is still questionable for me as well. 2015 election was regarded free and fair by both domestic and international observers. Till now, the constitution is quite controversial for democratic values as it confers the power to army to carry coup if the country is in emergency conditions. That’s why, people feels the army as puppeteer of the problems. The worst thing about Myanmar’s politics is that executive power is not only in hand of elected president but also in hand of army general and presence of 25% of unelected army parliamentarians is seemed to block the transition process. So, the democracy process of Myanmar is like a car driving on the rough road; fast but fluctuating. I think that what the democratic activists and oppositions need to take less from Myanmar case.

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