Aung San Suu Kyi: Once more with GustoPosted: April 1, 2012
The streets of Rangoon echoed with cheers on Sunday after unofficial results indicated Aung San Suu Kyi had won a parliamentary seat in a landmark election that could see the Nobel laureate and former political prisoner take public office for the first time.
“We won! We won!” chanted her supporters as they crowded the pavement in their thousands outside her party’s headquarters. Traffic was restricted to a thin line snaking haphazardly through the crowd, where young and old in red – the colour of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) – sang along to a Johnny Cash-inspired anthem calling for “the return of Mother Suu”.
Those who were not dancing swayed back and forth to watch numbers flash on a digital signboard that measured the NLD’s victories in byelections around the country, where the party was contesting 44 of 45 open seats in Burma’s 664-seat parliament.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s victory, which will not be officially confirmed for another week, could mark the moment that this poverty-stricken nation, where a military junta has ruled almost exclusively for the past 50 years, takes its first genuine steps towards democracy.
The NLD was competing in its first elections since 1990, after which Aung San Suu Kyi was held under house arrest for most of the next 20 years, and the poll was notable for its unprecedented access for foreign journalists and independent observers.
Myanmar/Burma is one of the economies that I have spent the last several years studying closely. They are a member of ASEAN and are attempting to modernize to become part of a trade and monetary union. Their economy is poor and it primarily reflects the poor government and rule of law established by the military rulers who seized power. Myanmar has also experienced tough sanctions for their many human rights violations. The current elections and the near future will determine the outlook for this country. You may recall the brutal, murderous crackdown on protests by Buddhist Monks–often called the Saffron Revolution for the colors worn by the monks–in 2007. Nations are looking to Aung San Suu Kyi and her party to begin to bring the country back from its past. If this happens, the tiny nation may begin to recover from years of repression and poor economic results.
Ms Suu Kyi said in a statement: “It is natural that the NLD members and their supporters are joyous at this point.
“However, it is necessary to avoid manners and actions that will make the other parties and members upset. It is very important that NLD members take special care that the success of the people is a dignified one.”
During the campaign, foreign journalists and international observers were given the widest access for years.
The European Union hinted that it could ease some sanctions if the vote went smoothly.
The BBC’s Rachel Harvey in Rangoon says the NLD alleged some voting irregularities in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw.
NLD spokesman Nyan Win told AFP news agency he had sent a letter of complaint to the election commission over allegations ballot forms had been tampered with.
“This is happening around the country. The election commission is responsible for what is occurring,” he said.
The military leaders are still dominant in this tiny southeast Asian nation. “Mother Suu” has only recently been allowed out from her house arrest of 20 years. A lot of the international pressure started when the famous human rights activist won the Noble Peace Prize. However, many nations have been pressuring the military to step down. Sanctions on the country have played an important role too.
“While the results have not yet been announced, the United States congratulates the people who participated, many for their first time in the campaign and election process,” Clinton told reporters in Istanbul.
“We are committed to supporting these reform efforts,” she added, noting that the government must continue to improve transparency and deal with any voting irregularities.
The military junta in Myanmar last year handed power to a new government led by President Thein Sein which has surprised even its critics with a string of reforms, which include allowing Suu Kyi to run for parliament.
“There are no guarantees about what lies ahead for the people of Burma.
This will be an interesting country to watch in the future. My hope is that it will go well and that Mother Suu will be a central part of that effort.