Aung San Suu Kyi’s election

Nobody will want to look like a fool on 1 April in Burma this year. So will you take a punt on who will triumph? For political analysts, predictions are always risky business. We pretty much all have a habit of getting it wrong. But, naturally enough, everyone wants to know how well Aung San Suu Kyi will fare in Sunday’s by-election.  

This by-election, triggered by the promotion of elected represetantives to ministerial posts, sees Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy fighting to get a toe-hold in the country’s military-dominated legislatures. It is almost guaranteed Aung San Suu Kyi will win her seat and that a fair number of other candidates from her party will also find themselves in parliament.

Over the coming days I will be offering various quick assessments of the situation and figured it worth getting started now.

  1. It is much more dangerous for President Thein Sein if Aung San Suu Kyi fails to win her seat. Such an outcome would lead to inevitable cries of vote-rigging and could spark an uncontrollable backlash. It may even spell the end of the nascent democratising project. To further his wide-ranging agenda, Thein Sein, and his allies, need Aung San Suu Kyi in parliament. After fighting for so many years to keep her sidelined it is a remarkable change of fortunes.
  2. Aung San Suu Kyi’s election will legitimise the legislative process and catalyse a number of other changes, including more aggressive efforts to dismantle Western sanctions. Those efforts are well-and-truly overdue but the trigger of Aung San Suu Kyi’s election is the perfect justification for developing more considered policies towards Burma.
  3. Her election has particular implications for how we see the country’s parliament. According to a very well-informed correspondent based in Yangon, “One thing is certain. When one of the world’s most famous dissidents takes her seat shortly after the by-elections, Burma’s national parliament will emerge from the shadows.”
  4. At the same time, the election of National League for Democracy representatives will not be a panacea for Burma’s ills. Aung San Suu Kyi has yet to be tested by life as a professional politician.  My guess is that the learning curve will be steep and the challenges many. She may end up disappointing some of her most ardent supporters.
  5. Even after Aung San Suu Kyi is elected the conumdrums presented by ethnic politics will remain.  Some thoughts on that issue, including my own, are available here and here, among other places.

For those who are interested, there is a short ANU video where I talk about a range of these issues in more detail.

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And before I forget — on 1 April, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democray is contesting 44 of the constituencies that are up for grabs (some votes were recently postponed due to the war in Kachin State).

Now to your prediction: how many do you think the NLD will win?

About Nicholas Farrelly