April 02, 2012



Aung San SuuKyi'sNational League for
Democracy (NLD) has won a landslide victory in bye-elections to the Parliament.It
is reported to have won at least 40 of the 45 seats for which the bye-elections
were held. It had contested 44 of them. SuuKyi herself has comfortably won the
seat for which she contested.
2. SuuKyi, her party and international
observers of the election campaign and the voting process have acknowledged the
fairness of the elections. The fairness was even otherwise obvious in the
number of seats won by the NLD which was up to its expectations.
3. The bye-elections were caused by the
resignation of those elected in last November’s elections who were nominated to
the Council of Ministers as was required under the Constitution. The NLD, which
had boycotted last year’s elections, decided to register itself as a political
party and contest the bye-elections to these seats after the Government decided
to amend certain provisions of the Constitution and regulations regarding party registration to which the NLD
had objected.
4. There was a certain lack of
transparency regarding the talks or negotiations between SuuKyi and
President TheinSein that preceded the
agreement which facilitated the decision of the NLD to seek registration as a political party and
contest the bye-elections. It was not clear whether it was an unconditional
acceptance by the Government of the demands of SuuKyi or whether there were
concessions on both sides.If so, what were they?
5.Fears that the serving officers of
the Army and other former Army strongmen like Than Shwe, who had ruled the
country before last year’s elections, may force a reconsideration of the
concessions made by TheinSein have been belied so far. Serving officers and
former Army strongmen have not come in the way of the implementation of the
political reforms initiated by TheinSein. The fact that they did not try to
influence the results of the bye-polls to the detriment of the NLDis an
indicator that they have accepted the reforms initiated so far.
6. Theadditional fact that China and Pakistan have taken the
initiative for building up contacts with SuuKyi and her party----- President
Asif Ali Zardari had officially visited Myanmar and during his stay had met
her---- was also an indicator that in the Chinese and Pakistani assessments
there is no opposition to the reforms from the serving officers and former Army
7. The Myanmar Army has always been
worried over the possibility of internal political instability resulting in
violence and a weakening of the Army’s counter-insurgency operations against
the various insurgencies of the ethnic minorities. Whenever the serving
officers have apprehended such threats they have not hesitated to intervene and
strengthen their hold over the State and security apparatus.
8. In SuuKyi’s post-victory statements
advising her followers to observe restraint and moderation in celebrating the
bye-poll victory, one could sense an anxiety to ensure that over-exuberance in
celebrating the victory doesn’t lead to law and order situations that might be
exploited by those unhappy with the reforms. She has been stressing the need
for reconciliation and national unity.
9.Now that SuuKyi and her party have
won a significant victory, what next in the political process? Will she and her
party be satisfied with playing the role of a constructive opposition till the
next general elections in 2015 without prematurely trying to play a larger
political role not warranted by their limited presence in the Parliament?
10. Will the Government try to co-opt
her into the system by offering her an official role that she may find it
difficult to resist such as the post of the Foreign Minister or Chairperson of
an important Parliamentary Committee? If such an offer is made, will she accept
it thereby running the risk of creating an impression that she has been
softened by the regime and has let herself be co-opted or will she choose to
maintain her political independence by not accepting any role under the present
Government, which is still dominated by the Army? These are important questions
to which answers are not available and will not be available for some weeks
till the results are officially declared and the NLD members take their seats
in the Parliament.
11.From a dogged and determined
opponent of the Army and the military regime, SuuKyi has mellowed down into a
pragmatic leader who understands the Army’s determination to maintain a certain
political role in the form of reservation of 25 per cent of the seats in the Parliament
for the Armed Forces and to ensure that the various insurgencies do not lead to
a disintegration of the country.
12. She also understands the
geo-political and the geo-strategic considerations that make the Army follow a
policy of equi-distance and equi-proximity in relation to China and India.
While she has empathy for the West---which is reciprocated by the West--- she
would most probably avoid any foreign and strategic policy initiatives or
demands that could create alarm in China or among the large number of
pro-Beijing officers in the Army.
13. There are indications that now that
the bye-polls are over, our Prime Minister Dr.ManmohanSingh has decided to visit Myanmar for two days
next month. By then, a clearer indication of the vision of SuuKyi should be
available. SuuKyi, who grew up in India and went to college in New Delhi, has
been an admirer of Indian democracy and Indian political leaders of the
independence struggle. At the same time, she has had reasons to be disappointed
by India’s over-cautious attitude to the struggle for democracy led by her. It
would be unrealistic to expect any overflow of bonhomie for India from her. She
will be friendly and correct---nothing more.( 3-4-12)
( The writer is Additional Secretary
(retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently,
Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai
Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )

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