Myanmar by-election and the entrenchment of democracy: Multiple parties and ethnic vitality
Sawako Utsumi and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The international media often focuses on the same spin in relation to Myanmar. Hence, it is difficult to know if the “free press” is that free? This fact is being witnessed again in relation to the outcome of the by-election of 13 seats. After all, the focus was once more on spreading negative information about the State Counselor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. However, irrespective of the democratic outcome, the real winner is the continuing path to democracy in Myanmar.
Also, of significant importance, different ethnic groups had the opportunity to vote for an array of candidates. Not surprisingly, the ethnic angle is where the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) lost out because several conflicts are still ongoing. On top of this, the high expectation of the NLD was too much given the enormous complexity of Myanmar. Despite this, it is extremely healthy that minority groups have a plethora of political options – including ethnic leaders who seek to further the interests of the ethnic group they belong to. After all, countless ethnic groups are marginalized via the political process in an array of nations throughout the world.
Therefore, the NLD looks set to win 7 out of the 13 contested seats and this figure is a little lower than was expected several months ago. Yet, of significance, the NLD lost out in areas of high ethnic concentration of various minority groups in this country. Therefore, the NLD will understand the need to reform itself and further the cause of being a broad-church political party, that appeals throughout the nation in healthy numbers.
Myo Nyunt, a spokesperson for the NLD, stipulated, “We lost five out of six seats in ethnic areas. Ethnic people are not satisfied with our performance on the peace process.”
Internationally – and internally given the military angle – then it is remarkable that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is not only consolidating the path to democracy but this nation is also reaching out throughout the region – and much further afield. For example, Northeast Asia. Hence, the international outcry against Myanmar based on the crisis in Rakhine is hindering the economy and sapping much-needed energy away from bread and butter issues. In this sense, the NLD should be complimented for preserving order, entrenching democracy, and laying foundations to galvanize the economy based on internal policies and attracting foreign investment.
The international community should note the folly of helping forces that may not fully desire full democracy in Myanmar. Equally, it is ordinary workers that are being hindered by certain nations not fully investing in Myanmar based on a very biased – and unwarranted – approach towards this nation. Therefore, leading democratic nations should focus on the healthy democratic process that allows a plethora of political parties and tolerates the ethnic minority angle inside the body politic of Myanmar.
Overall, the NLD understands the need to focus on areas of weakness, in relation to the outcome of the results of the by-elections because the same thing happened in 2017. Yet, regional and political ties are being forged internationally – and with the leaders of Northeast Asia – to a higher level under the NLD. Therefore, given the enormous complexities of Myanmar – and the political restrictions related to the military angle – then the truth is that democracy is the real winner of the 13 contested seats.
This says much for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her openness in reshaping the political landscape of Myanmar. Equally, it shows that Myanmar is much more open than the negative soothsayers claim. After all, in countless nations all over the world, you either have a limited two to three party system – or nations where ethnic minorities don’t have full representation.
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