Burma Election: Democracy by Exclusion and Discipline

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Burma will hold nationwide parliamentary elections on November 8th. As is often the case with countries in transition, enormous hopes are trained on the election to usher in a new era of freedom. The National League for Democracy, under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, is expected to do very well. Whatever happens on Sunday, however, Burma’s struggle for democracy will not be over.

It’s not only that the vote will not be free and fair. A litany of problems have been noted by human rights organizations: Voter lists are incomplete. The election commission is not independent. Huge numbers of Rohingya Muslims are denied a vote, intentionally disenfranchised by government policies. They and other Muslims are the target of a virulent strain of Buddhist chauvinism championed by popular monks who favor the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party. The USDP has been accused of vote-buying, and a report accuses military and political elites of corruption related to the jade trade.

The election was supposed to be the culmination of a reform process begun by the ruling party in 2010. Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, to which she’d been confined for the better part of 20 years. The following year, General Thein Sein put on civilian clothes and began to run the country as president. Press censorship was lifted and many political prisoners were released.

- The remainder of this post can be read for free at Democracy Road, FPI Senior Fellow Ellen Bork's blog at World Affairs Journal

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