Myanmar Post Landmark Election 2015

By November 17, 2015 05:59

Myanmar Post Landmark Election 2015

By M.S. Anwar

Analysis & Opinion, Rohingya Vision

The much anticipated Myanmar’s Election 2015 was held on November 8, 2015 after the decades long military dictatorship rule in the country. The National League for Democracy (NLD) led by the country’s democratic icon and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had the super-majority victory in the polls. Now, the party will not need to make alliances with any other political parties and can independently form the government in a few months’ time.

During 1990 Election as well, the then newly formed National League for Democracy (NLD) won by landslide victory. However, the former military junta didn’t recognize the polls results and rather nullify them to later put the leader Daw Suu Kyi under house arrests in on-and-off terms until her release in late 2011.

Earlier, the military junta held election in 2010 according to the 2008 Constitution drafted by the military themselves in a way that they can play a powerful and unparalleled role in the country’s politics for generations to come. As expected, the military’s political wing, Union Development and Solidarity Party (USDP) led by the military-general-turned-civilian Thein Sein, won the majority votes by various dirty means as the main opposition party NLD was barred from the election.

This time, the 2015 election was touted by the most and over-hyped by the media to be the freest, fairest and most inclusive one. Certainly, the election was free and to an extent, it was fair. However, it was not inclusive and fair by 100%. Hence because a whole ethnic community, Rohingya, — recognized by UN to be the world’s most persecuted people and considered by many Human Rights Watchdogs to be subjected to Genocide — was barred from participating in the election.

Rohingya Excluded from the Election

Unfortunately, the Rohingyas subjected to the state-sponsored violence since 2012 yet again became the victims of blatant discriminations and basic human rights abuses as the ruling military-backed-quasi-civilian government confiscated their rights to take part in the landmark election. The exclusion from the election was utterly absurd and racist as it was based on their racial original and religiously although the government tends to give other excuses.

While other Myanmar citizens and the people celebrated this (SHAM) Election leading to a faux democracy, the disfranchised Rohingyas mourned!

The Rohingyas had the suffrage and the rights to be elected as the parliamentarian and ministerial candidates in all elections in the history of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). Even during 2010 Elections, the Rohingyas took part and a few of them were elected as parliamentarians in both state-level and union-level representing Maungdaw and Buthidaung Township constituencies. Now, their rights to participate in the election have been confiscated.

Like usual, the Media have failed to give due attentions to the sorry plight of the helpless people as they have been busy to hype over the election using attractive qualifiers like ‘Landmark, Historic, Freest, Fairest and etc.” While other Myanmar citizens and the people celebrated this (SHAM) Election leading to a faux democracy, the disfranchised Rohingyas mourned!

If we look at the other angles of the Election keeping the plight of the Rohingyas aside, although we cannot call this Election ‘A SHAM’ as the election was transparent and free; and everyone had the right to take part in the election apart from the Rohingyas, it was an election that will lead the country to a faux democratic state. The election will not lead the country to a genuinely democratic one for the following reasons.

NLD’s Victory and Future Prospect

The National League for Democracy won around 80% of the ELECTED parliamentary seats in both upper house (house of nationalities) and lower house (house of representatives) combined. Winning 80% of the seats never actually means 80% of total parliamentary seats. This is actually 80% of the 75% Parliamentary Seats as 25% are reserved for the military in both legislative houses. So, in real, NLD has just won 60% of the 100% total seats in both houses.

Myanmar Election Results 3

This is enough for NLD to select two presidential candidates out three, while other will be selected by the chief of army staffs Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing according 2008 constitution. Of the three Presidential Candidates, the one that gets the highest numbers of votes from the electoral colleges will become the President and other two candidates will become Vice-Presidents respectively.

It’s certain that, going by the electoral win, a presidential candidate from NLD will get the highest votes and become the President. However, Daw Suu Kyi, the leader of NLD, is constitutionally barred from becoming the President. Article 59 (f) 2008 Constitution widely believed to have coined by the former junta keeping Ms. Suu Kyi in mind prohibits from Presidency anyone whose spouse and children are foreigners or nationalities of another country. Since her husbands and children are British nationals, there is no option for her to become the President.

Therefore, she has recently said to Channel News Asia Singapore that she would be holding a position above the President and instructs him/her (the president to be elected by her party) what to do and what not to do. However, constitutionally and legally, she can’t be above the President either as the Preceding Article of the above-mentioned Charter states ““The President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar takes precedence over all other persons throughout the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.” Therefore, we have to wait and see who she will choose from her party for the presidential post for the president must be a puppet president that is subservient and have no qualms to follow her orders.

Her party hasn’t chosen anyone from the presidential post yet. So, let’s wait the party makes the declaration.

On the other hand, she has failed to voice her concerns on the grave crimes being committed by the government against the country’s isolated and helpless minority, the Rohingya. She has not really said anything on the violence against the Rohingyas despite being Nobel Peace Prize Winner. For her, perhaps, it was the fear of losing the votes of the Buddhist majority that prevented from raising her voice over the human rights violations. 

But her party has won the election and can form a government. Moreover, she has also said during her electoral campaign that she doesn’t believe in persecution and revenge. Now, we have to see what she can do to stop the persecution against the Rohingyas. 

Military- Still Most Powerful Entity

After the landslide win by the NLD, the word leaders, politicians worldwide, human rights workers and the international community at large have been pouring the party leaders and members with ‘Congratulations and Plaudits.’ The media, without real and deep understanding of Myanmar’s political landscape, have going gaga over the NLD’s electoral victory. Hence, the people all over the world are made to believe Myanmar as if it has become a full-fledged democratic country. The world citizens are not simply informed of Myanmar’s complicated and complex political structures.

Therefore, before going to make any assumptions on Myanmar’s changing political paradigm, it is necessary to understand what role the decades-ruling Military Institution directly or indirectly play in the politics and decision making process of the nation. What roles do they still play in the background of the smokescreen of the so-called political reformation and democratic transition?

First and foremost, the military still reserve the rights and power in their hands to control three most crucial ministries: Home Ministry, Defence Ministry and the Ministry of Border Affairs. According to Article 20 (b) of 2008 Constitution, it is the Chief of Staffs, Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, who will directly appoint these powerful ministers, not by the elected President.

With all the armed forces such as the military, the police, the Security Forces, the Border Guard Police (BGP), Special Branch Police, Intelligence and many being under the direct control of Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, everyone including President himself will be subjected to listen to his order. The mentioned armed forces can arrest, detain and investigate anyone anytime. The 2008 constitution also provides a framework that can be considered as a separate regime for the armed forces, giving them special privileges and representation in state institutions as well as widespread immunities.

When the military feel threatened of losing its power, vital role in the politics and supreme hold on the national affairs, they can conspire to trigger 2012 style violence, create unrest the country and force to declare a state of emergencies for all armed forces are kept under the direct commands of the military supremoes.

Secondly, according to 2008 Constitution, a major provision that military enjoy among many is the much controversial articles, 109 (b), 141 (b) and 436 that ensures the reins of power firmly remain in the hands of the military. The articles , 109 (b), 141 (b), provide the military 25% of the seats in each of the upper and lower houses of the union parliament and 33% of the seats in the state/regional parliaments and article 436 gives the military a power to veto passing any unwanted legislation.

The 2008 Constitution also gives the power to the military to appoint/select one of the three presidential candidates from the military background, where the candidate will, depending on the votes, will either become the president or a vice president.

On the other hand, Chapter XI of the Constitution allows the new National Defence and Security Council (NDSC) can impose a martial law and abolish parliaments allowing the military to lead a coup de ‘tat and rule the country directly during the time of state de-stability and emergency. The NDSC body is composed of the President, two vice-presidents, Chief of the Commander of the armed forces and his Deputy, two speakers of the Union Parliaments, Defence Minister, Home Minister, Foreign Minister and Minister of Border Affairs. Although the NDSC body can impose martial law only when the President (who is most likely to be elected from NLD) declares a state of Emergency, the majority members who are the military or the military appointed members will have the final say over the civilian members in the body including the president.

Myanmar Election Results 1

Therefore, when the military feel threatened of losing its power and supreme hold on the national affairs, they can conspire to trigger 2012-style violence, create unrest the country and force to declare a state of emergencies for all armed forces are kept under the direct commands of the military supremoes. Then, the military can apply it (the clauses in Chapter XI of the Constitution) as the legal channel to lead a coup de’tat, overthrow the president and reclaim its power to rule the country.

Never say the military won’t do this again! Read the Myanmar history!

Furthermore, as the military hegemony is constitutionally protected as a separate and autonomous entity from the government, the civilian government or the elected President can never order the Chief of Commander of the Armed Forces let alone dismissing him from his post if unwanted. The President cannot scrutinize the armed forces activities, their business interests; audit and contract the huge military budget.

Therefore, the amendments of the 2008 Constitution that provides those important privileges have become vital and necessary. Nonetheless, for any constitutional amendments must receive more than 75% of the vote in parliament and the military has Veto Power over Proposed Constitutional Changes. Don’t forget that the 25% Seats in parliaments are mandated for the military according to article Articles 109 (b) and 141 (b). And they will NOT welcome any amendments that may likely dilute their supremacy and rule in the country! There is Article 436, the ultimate veto power!

With an effective use of the media platform, the soon-to-be NLD Government can educate the people of Myanmar to get rid of racial hatred, with humane values and humanity and how to live in peace and harmony with people of different colors, races and faiths.

Besides, the military have learnt and matured enough how to share power and accommodate the administrative roles with a civilian government through working with the ex-General Thein Sein led (pseudo) civilian government. On other hand, the NLD Government is quite new in the field and will find it hard to even utilize the little role or power they will have.

Thus, one can say the former military junta had done their math and homework before crafting the 2008 Constitution on how to share power and political roles with a civilian government while maintaining their supremacy and playing central role in national affairs in the background.

Parallel Governments

Here, after 2015 Election, the biggest problem in Myanmar would likely be a case of two parallel or power-sharing governments with polar-apart different political ideologies in one government itself. One is the NLD led civilian government and another is the military led autonomous government with the absolute control over all the armed forces that can ever legally exist in the country. If one says the former government is backed by the West, then the latter is backed by China and Russia.

China has heavily invested in the country’s natural resources and banking sector and the country itself is a part of China’s crucial ‘String of Pearls‘ Strategy for global dominance and future economical sustainability and growth. With the rise of the NLD (considered a proxy party of the West) into power, the US and the EU may have a greater role to play in the country’s affairs and may harm China’s business and strategic interest. Hence, China is never expected to take it lightly.

Consequently, it may lead to proxy wars between China and the West which will result into series of bloody violence in the country. And it will ultimately lead to decisional conflicts and more frictions between the military and the civilian government which could even widen their political stands.

Therefore, it may even narrow down any possible chances of coming together of these two parallel governments for the common national interests. Well, none can predict future exactly. So, wait and see.

What NLD Government Can Do?

The landslide victory by in the November Election may seem perfect and beautiful on paper as it can form a civilian government. But practically and realistically, it doesn’t! The NLD government will really be shaky as it will have to share major power with the military in the government.

With no power to order the country’s armed forces, monitor the military activities and audit their budget, the NLD Government seems really helpless and in sorry state.

In the last few decades, the military expenditures have gone over more than 40% of National GDP, while only 5%-10% have been spent for Education and Health Sector; and other 10% have gone to development, infrastructures and others. Where this huge other remaining 40% of national GDP has gone/been spent, nobody knows! The NLD Government won’t know it either!

However, given that the NLD Government effectively utilizes the little power and authority going to have, it can really be beneficial to the long term national interests and serve its welfares. The biggest challenges the country currently facing are the widespread violence, endemic racial-religious hatred, xenophobia and ethnic conflicts stemming from the power plays of the different political groups with vested interest throughout the history, Poverty, Lack of Employment, Education and Health etc.

With an effective use of the media platform, the soon-to-be NLD Government can educate the people of Myanmar to get rid of racial hatred, with humane values and humanity and how to live in peace and harmony with people of different colors, races and faiths. The government should create more employments as an immediate need for the country to prevent Brain-Draining and leaving labour force out of the country. Creating employments may consequently reduce poverty to an extent as well.

It should optimize the budgets allocated for education and health sector. Besides, upgrading the current educational standard is a must.

With a people educated with plurality, democratic and humane values; a people that have jobs to remain busy with; and a people that have enough food to eat, the nation will really be peaceful and prosperous. And such people can’t easily be manipulated for political interests, triggered to resort to violence against any other ethnic group in the name of national sovereignty and protection of race and religion.

Such well-informed, well-guided and educated people won’t kill other people, burn down their homes and shops, rape their women and commit crimes against humanity again as it has been the case against the Rohingya and other Muslim groups in Myanmar.

Ultimately, the burden lies on the shoulder of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the much revered democratic icon, human rights defender and leader of NLD. She has been criticised for not speaking up against the grave human rights violations against Rohingyas. But let’s what she can do when she comes to power.

Myanmar Election Results 2

To sum up, the Rohingya, the much hated, friendless and helpless community in Myanmar, became the victim of yet another human right violation as the government banned them from participating in the national election hailed as the freest and landmark. Therefore, the Rohingya’s hope in Daw Suu Kyi and her party to deliver anything for them is really bleak. However, the NLD that claims to walk on the lines of human rights and due to international pressures can certainly be expected to have a softer approach than the military backed Thein Sein Government towards them.

Keeping this Rohingya issue aside, as it has been known, with the rise of the Suu Kyi’s NLD led government with sharply different political ideologies, the frontline of the military hegemony and their cronies in the country can be assumed to be broken. Nevertheless, the NLD government will neither have the major say in the country affairs nor have the right to take major decision to change the destiny of the country.

Due to the lack of full authority and decision making power in the shared-government, if Daw Suu Kyi fails to fulfil people’s hope in her and deliver promises given to the people during the electoral campaign, she will ultimately be blamed for the failures. The general Burmese people on the ground do not understand the complex political mechanism of the country. For them, once they have voted for Ms. Suu Kyi, she will be the ultimate power holder. And the military can well-take advantage of any such possible situations to their favor and turn the people against her and her party.

Meanwhile, what Ms. Suu Kyi can do for greater power in the government is to influence the military and their proxies in the parliaments, neutralize their positions and persuade them for constitutional changes in alliance with the parliamentarians from other ethnic groups. Although it is extremely difficult and a mountain task for Ms. Suu Kyi to persuade the military (in the parliament) for the constitutional changes that are literally against them and their military institution, she is known to have an ability to influence the people she wants and win their hearts.

Of course, it is not because she has been able to deliver much benefit for the people of the nation but because of her blood lineage. She is loved and respected in Myanmar more because she is the daughter of the late Burmese National Hero General Aung San than because what the more or less she has contributed for the country. She is over 70 now. Maximum can she serve in the party for the nation or to influence the military for the constitutional changes is just 10 years. But it will take decades to make any such impacts on the military institution and generals.

Therefore, her party needs a super effective, efficient, vibrant and influential leader who can succeed her and be influential like she is. With history proving that the country has faced leadership failures time and again, will such influential leader can emerge in just 10 or 20 years of time especially without the Gen. Aung San’s blood lineage? Or will the military rise again and stick to follow the military-coined displinary democracy and keep the military hegemony alive? It is a matter of time. What we can do is just ‘Wait and Watch.’

M.S. Anwar is the Editor of Rohingya Vision TV. He can be reached at



By November 17, 2015 05:59

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