Why We Should Give a Change a Chance

Friday, November 5, 2010

Nyunt Shwe

Myanmarese must go voting for a change and use it as a leverage to remove the military from politics. However, the process of removing the military from politics cannot be forced, but gradual and for good. The largest opposition party, National League for Democracy (NLD) saw it differently and chose to boycott the election by sacrificing legal existence of the party. The NLD wanted democracy and military out of politics right now. It’s far from reality and rational thinking. In fact, the last 22 years struggle led by the NLD has shown clearly that she has neither alternative plans nor real power to kick the military regime out of politics as she wished, or to deal with it successfully.

However, without the NLD in the election, the process of change will take much slower pace and tendency of sliding back to autocracy will loom around. Though the competing parties count for 37, the military backed two parties dominated all the electoral constituencies. Most probably, the pro-military candidates will prevail in the election and pro-democracy forces will likely be in minority in the parliament. Besides, democratization in Myanmar will also depend on how much the American led western countries and Japan engage and influence the new emerging government of Myanmar.

Nevertheless, Myanmar must face the reality and there is no alternative ways than accepting the gradual change if we look at the other authoritarian countries’ examples, such as of South Korea, Chile, Brazil etc. The post election developments will create political openings and the politicians must use those openings to make the system more democratic while rebuilding the country hand in hand with the military. Chile has amended her Pinochet constitution many times and finally said it became fully democratic in 2005.

Besides, the military regime of Myanmar is much stronger and has necessary unity and more than enough wealth to maintain its status quo than two decades ago. It has determined to follow its own well-charted course since 1993. The huge gap of power between the regime and oppositions combined clearly dictates that there will be no negotiated pact for the transition. The regime dictates the rules of the game. As usual, the NLD blindly refused to cooperate with the regime like the Chilean communists in 1986 and simply was kicked out of the ring and abused as much.

In reality, Myanmar oppositions have no such strength to pulse the military out of politics now and they must find a way entailing the Buddhist culture to convince the military regime that it can trust the governance to the politicians. To accomplish this, they must build trust by working together. As professor Gibson said that trust building needs extensive social contact, working together with the military is essential. At the same time, as the trust needs respect, the politicians must show their accountability, selflessness, and skills while working with them.

Another factor is that the military regime can withstand the Western countries’ sanctions for another decade or even more if it desires. However, morally, the regime has been suffering since its establishment by bloody-means and on going abuses of dissidents, as it believes its security need. The sanctions don’t hurt much, but causes much shame for the generals.

The late well-known social and political science researchers Charles Tilly and Sidney Tarrow have said that the dictators learned lessons from each other. Indeed they do. What has had happened to the generals in Chile and Argentina after they transferred powers to the civilians warned Myanmar generals to take full control of their fate in their own hands.

Under these backdrops, Myanmar military regime’s concern is not without substance or precedence. The West and its allies have been trying in one way or another to take actions against the regime at the United Nations on behalf of NLD. Out of these concerns, the regime created lopsided and undemocratic constitution of 2008. As Professor O’Donnell and Schmitter have summed up the experiences of the Latin American countries’ transitions, any party that could not acquiescence with the dictums of the incumbent and strong authoritarian regimes would be left outside the playground and most probably got abused; that is what happened in Myanmar.

Myanmar regime’s election model is a copy of what Indonesia did under Suharto. The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is the GOLKAR and 25% uncontested seats for military came from Suharto’s, Park Chung-hee’s, and Ernesto Geisel’s models. The regime does it to fully protect them in transitional period and to extend their major involvement in politics.

Contrary to the military regime, the Myanmar oppositions seemed lack of learning how other authoritarian regimes have changed into democracies. The NLD’s course of actions showed that she did not seek any such knowledge. Worse of all, it has no viable alternatives. NLD’s popularity rested only on the image of Suu Kyi, being the daughter of most revered and loved leader, her father Aung San who was assassinated in 1947.

The NLD has followed confrontation line as wished or anticipated by the military regime. The regime cunningly freed Win Tin two years ago just to do the job and he accomplished it by using his popularity among the younger followers as 19 years incarcerated jailbird. However, it’s clear that Win Tin or Suu Kyi or NLD could not solve the problem without accommodating the military in politics, even temporarily. What NLD wants is the perfect democracy from the outset, but there is no such antecedence in the 5000 years old civilization of our world. Therefore, the people of Myanmar must see realistically and go voting for the democratic forces rather than the military backed crony-parties.

About nyuntshwe

A Myanmar, Buddhist, pacifist, and pragmatic person who believe that we are what we think. That leads him positive thinking and he sees the world a beautiful place, but he still likes to keep trying for a better and more beautiful world.
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