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The elections will be held in 2010 as confirmed by Senior General Than Shwe in his Independence Day speech on 04 January 2010. But when? This is a closely guarded secret. A Japanese media report has however indicated that it is likely to be held on 10 October 2010 (10.10.10). This date has been fixed after astrological consultations by the head of state who is a firm believer in astrology. There is some credence to this report as the Minister for Home affairs had indicated at a meeting that Aung San Suu Kyi will be released in November 2010, thereby preventing her from taking part in the elections (if held in October). This will be the country s fourth general elections post independence. The first was in 1951, the second in 1960 and the last in 1990 in which the National League for Democracy (NLD) had won 392 of 485 seats. The 1990 election results have been haunting the military junta ever since and with this year s (2010) elections, it would like to put an end to that chapter and see the military backed parties fare well. Elections will usher a new restructured form of Government The election, however flawed or controlled it may be, is significant as it will culminate in establishing a presidential system of government with a bicameral legislature as well as fourteen regional governments and assemblies under the 2008 constitution. This will be a major structural change in the political set up which will help the future direction of the country. It is customary for an election law and a party registration law to be issued for the election process to be set in motion but there are no announcements till date on this. For the May 1990 elections the Election Law was issued in May 1989 and the Party registration law in September 1989. While these may be delayed intentionally, to give the opposition minimum time to prepare for the polls, there are indications that the government machinery is already gearing up for the elections. The military junta is in a bind on the conduct of elections. If conducted in a free and fair manner, it may be surprised as in 1990 with the opposition sweeping the polls and if conducted under threats and intimidation as was done for the referendum in May 2008, it will come under harsh criticism of the international media. As of now, the military junta has indicated that no observers from other nations will be permitted during the elections.
There are indications to suggest that the candidates for the president. commander-in-chief and the defence minister have been finalised out of the military hierarchy. vice-president. The military junta is believed to have started selecting candidates from the services as well as from outside to contest the elections through the military backed parties. General Thura Shwe Mann (currently No. form their own political parties. A media report indicates that over 2000 officers will be required to fill up the reserved seats in the two houses at the centre and the regional assemblies and other civilian posts earmarked for the services.3 and the Joint COS Armed Forces) is expected to take over as the president. Ethnic nationalities and Armed Groups As of now the main hurdle for the elections seem to be the ethnic nationalities of the country occupying large areas in the borders and having their own armed militia. . however limited it may be. On 26 February 2010 her appeal against the verdict of her last house arrest has been turned down by the court and hence the chances of her release prior to the elections are remote. Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA).e. These conditions are unlikely to be fulfilled by the junta. release of political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi. review of the 2008 constitution and international observers for the elections are met. Those still in the country and had taken part in the last elections are now too old to galvanise their outfits. Opposition in Disarray: The opposition has been weakened by the regime s systematic persecution in the last two decades and is divided. the party will not take part in the elections. It has no unified strategy to face the elections and is also devoid of capable leaders as the bulk has left the country. a social organisation with a membership of over 20 million and supported by the military has been given the task of selection of candidates from among its members and outside and wooing the ethnic tribes in the villages and border areas by promising some concessions such as issue of temporary identity cards. The main opposition party i. The service officers will have to shed their uniforms for contesting and this move is being resented by some sections as they will lose their privileges and extra sources of income.Army in full control: Rumours are afloat that Senior General Than Shwe might step down paving the way for formation of an interim government prior to the elections. If the NLD decides to take part in the election it will in a way legitimise the elections and the Constitution under which it is held and if it does not it will be depriving itself and its members the political space and opportunity made available. and have their militias transformed into border guards under Myanmar armed forces (Tatmadaw). In April 2009 it declared that unless some preconditions such as. There has been no political activity for a very long time. land for cultivation and work permits. the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi is equally in a quandary. Media reports indicate that they have been given time till end of February to surrender their arms. It is still not clear whether the National Unity Party (NUP) supported by the military junta in the 1990 elections will take part under the same name or the USDA and NUP combine and contest under a different name.
The use of state media (Radio and Television) by the political parties was strictly controlled. Their view is that the election is a chance for change after two decades and hence it is worth trying despite differences of opinion. a coalition of 12 ethnic groups. Hence in order to ensure that a similar fate does not befall on him. Unless some measure of autonomy is granted to the major ethnic nationalities. Than Shwe s calculations may all go awry if there is a military coup. . Election is a Chance for the Change ? A section of the general public and the younger generation is in favour of taking part in the elections. the military junta had imposed restrictions on public gatherings and political meetings and all political literature was censored before publication. In the 1990 elections. China has the most leverage and influence over Myanmar and the military junta is also aware that the continued political and diplomatic protection of China is essential for its well being. however flawed it may be.Except for a few minor ethnic groups. the constitutional provisions have been so designed that he is not taken to task for his past actions and wants to install a regime friendly government when he is leaving the scene. Going by the way the referendum was conducted in May 2008. when the present discontent in some sections of the army grows in large proportions. the conduct of the 2010 elections may be even more strictly controlled. A meeting was held in Yangon on January 19. the ongoing conflicts will continue and a lasting political solution does not seem to be in sight even if democracy if one may call it. former political prisoners and student activists expressed their support for the elections and discussed the strategy to be adopted for dealing with the military regime. which some do predict as a possibility. As of now China does not want to negotiate between the ethnics and the regime. news letters and pamphlets though this time (2010) internet and SMS may have a big role to play. The campaigning was more through posters. 2010 where some veteran politicians. China may not be keen on a democratic transition in Myanmar but at the same time does not want to interfere or influence the ongoing electoral process as the new government under any garb has to depend on China economically. In fact some are gearing up for a confrontation with the Myanmar armed forces. politically and militarily. The United Nationalities Alliance. According to a media report ten political parties have registered so far for the ensuing elections.. based in Yangon has conveyed that they will not take part in the elections and that they support the views of the NLD in this regard. most them have declined to take part in the elections under these conditions or have their militias transformed into border guards under the Tatmadaw. is restored. Upset over the Kokang incident in August 2009. Chinese Influence will continue: Of all the nations. Hence the military junta s handling of the ethnic nationalities in the Chinese border and the likelihood of fresh confrontations before elections is worrisome to both China and Myanmar. Senior General Than Shwe is well aware of the plight of General Ne Win and General Saw Maung in their last days and of their prot g s under the current regime. China had conveyed its displeasure through diplomatic channels.
On the other hand. efforts are on to ensure that the Army does not face another embarrassment as it happened in 1990. Myanmar has been an embarrassment in many ways to ASEAN since it became a member in 1997. The responsibility of the international community starts now. has started interacting with the regime since early 2009.html . The principles of noninterference and constructive engagement have not made any impact on Myanmar s long road to democracy.southasiaanalysis. It may take years but efforts should continue. It should be prepared to interact with the new government and seek opportunities for positive changes towards democracy. Conclusion It looks that the locus of power of Myanmar that is the Army (Tatmadaw) will not change as a result of this election. Without looking for short term gains it can help in this transition process by acting as a bridge between Myanmar and the international community. With the elections of 2010 and the prospect of a civilian government in position ASEAN hopes to have better days ahead in salvaging its prestige. However the US request for a national dialogue involving the regime.org/%5Cpapers37%5Cpaper3696. realising that the policy of economic sanctions have failed. The rejection in end February of Suu Kyi s appeal against her last house arrest has made matters worse.The United States. The regime had also responded by permitting Senator Jim Webb to visit Myanmar and meet with Than Shwe and Suu Kyi. NLD and the other opposition parties has not materialised. Election is only a process and not the end of its goal for Myanmar to become like other nations where people are totally free. Link: http://www.
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