Burma’s Election: Enemy of Peace, Stability and Reconciliation
4 November 2010: As Burma prepares for its first general elections in 20 years this Sunday, a young journalist/activist working inside Burma considers what the military’s version of change will mean for the country.
One doesn’t need to be a prophet to foretell Burma’s upcoming 2010 Elections and its possible outcomes. It doesn’t take a sharp political mind to make the right prediction either. Everyone is well aware of, and could make their own prediction, on what the military-planned 2010 Elections will bring and what will happen next in Burma. However, anyone can at the same time be a prophet in this matter, particularly in Burma. Why?
As a younger generation of Burmese citizen, I have never experienced the processes of election or how they are conducted, apart from hearing and reading about elections in other democratic countries around the world. Of course, there is a big difference between the election situations in those countries and what has actually happened so far with the military-orchestrated one in Burma. In reality, it creates some kind of confusion and reluctance among the peoples of Burma.
The answer is predictably obvious. The reason is that the vote we are witnessing today is not a democratic election by any standards, but only a mere process through which the regime changes its military uniform into a civilian dress, legitimizing and consolidating its power, through its civilian proxy the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
Based on lessons learned through experiences from the 2008 Referendum, I could somehow make a prediction on what this election will lead to. In each seven ethnic State of Burma, democracy youth activists were strongly campaigning for ‘Vote-No’, in which I was also actively involved in the Chin State. About 78% voted ‘No’ in the Referendum in seven States, along with about 40 per cent of the whole population of Burma. We thought that our efforts and campaigns were successful because the results showed that the public was not happy with the military-backed constitution. But our so-called victory was just like a castle built in the air. It was leaking. Than Shwe-led military authorities announced that the constitution was approved by more than 92% of the population. The result of that constitutional referendum in 2008 is now further validated with the election of 2010.
The military will hold the general elections on November 7. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi-led NLD, ethnic groups, and those political parties that won seats during the 1990 Elections came together in boycotting against the Nov 7 Election. The UN and EU countries have been calling for a review of the constitution so that the NLD and other groups can participate. The regime said that it has been working for the betterment of the country but in reality, it has not changed its real colors.
So, what has the military dictatorship done in order to hold its General Elections successfully and internationally acceptable? Has it tried to find other ways so the UN and other countries will believe in what it is doing? Let’s have a look.
Still, there are still more than 2000 political prisoners in Burma. International media groups are still banned. “In terms of running elections, Burma has got enough experiences and abilities to run an election. We do not need an outsider such as the UN for monitoring. We have enough already inside the country,” Chairman of the Election Commission U Thei Soe said on 18 October 2010.
This is the course that the military government continues on with, and one that it intends to pursue in the future. The version of ‘change’ the regime has been advocating for, is none other than the status quo.
The generals who have just shed their military uniforms are already said to have pre-appointed themselves positions in the next government. Chief Ministers in each State and Division are said to have been pre-appointed. These have been defended by the Election Commission. For instance, if one candidate, who is contesting against one general, is doing better, the Election Commission will try to find facts to make him/her disqualified. One Candidate, U Hung Thang, has been made ‘disqualified’ after being accused of making an ‘illegal’ visit to India in the previous two years. So, he is no longer eligible to stand as a candidate. This is just one example of the kind of change the junta has been pursuing.
The election will go forward as planned. But the suffering of the Burmese people will continue. So will the various forms of oppressions, including the institutionalized rapes of ethnic women, discrimination and persecution of religious and other minority groups. These forms of continued repression will give further impetus to the resistance movement, both the ethnic armed groups and other opposition pro-democracy forces, which will then lead to a vicious cycle of conflict in Burma.
This is the first of what will follow in the military’s master plan. It’s version of ‘change’ will be materialized through the current election. Military dictatorships have never, or will ever allow the kinds of change that do not benefit them. The only possible kind of change in Burma, as it now stands, will be one that the generals want. But that kind of change will only further jeopardize prospects for peace and stability, as well as, any hopes for national reconciliation in Burma.