Friday, April 24, 2009

Regime Faces Crushing Defeat if Election is Free and Fair

Irrawaddy News

If Burma’s upcoming election in 2010 is free and fair, it can be predicted with certainty that the National League for Democracy (NLD) of Aung San Suu Kyi will win with no less than the 82 percent of the votes it secured in the 1990 poll.

One basic reason for such optimism is that the NLD has committed none of the crimes laid at the door of the current military regime—killing innocent people, including revered monks, and sentencing dissidents to harsh and lengthy terms of imprisonment.

There are several other valid reasons: the NLD is an elected party, while the government is a ruthless regime; the stark contrast between their leaders, Than Shwe and Suu Kyi. There’s absolutely no comparison between the cold-blood monk killer and the sincere and candid NLD leader.

However, critics would say that the popularity of the NLD is declining because of its inability to bring about democratic reforms despite the mandate a large majority of the people bestowed on it two decades ago. That’s true if we don’t take into consideration just how oppressive the regime is.

The same majority won’t see any difference between the regime and the proxy parties which are now being formed ahead of the 2010 election.

It’s logical to assume that the regime, having failed to honor the result of the 1990 election, will not accept an NLD victory in the 2010 poll. The generals in Naypyidaw aren’t keen to see a resurrection of the “ghost” that has haunted them since 1990.

In order not to repeat their mistake, the generals will choose a means to make sure that their proxy parties will largely win in the election, even though they’ve secured 25 percent of the seats in both the upper and lower houses of parliament with handpicked military officials, according to the constitution which was drawn up by the junta’s delegates.

Logic, therefore, says that there is no reason for the generals to hold a free and fair election in 2010.

Regional events such as the anti-government riots in neighboring Thailand would have made the generals more determined to keep walking on their own “roadmap.”

Burmese Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein would have reported to his colleagues in Naypyidaw how he was evacuated by helicopter from the disrupted Association of Southeast Nations summit in Pattaya, and together they would surely have ridiculed Thailand’s democracy, noting its “anarchy”—a word they like to use.

Consequently, they would now be more determined than ever to keep walking toward what they have called “disciplined democracy.”

Nothing—including the criticism and demands of the international community—can seem to affect the determination of the Burmese generals.

Since taking office in January, US President Barack Obama and his administration have been reviewing the policies of the previous George W Bush government against authoritarian countries such as Iran, North Korea and Burma.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in February that the US administration was reviewing its policy on Burma, saying the sanctions imposed on Burma since 1997 had got nowhere. Constructive engagement applied by neighboring countries of Burma has also failed to bring about change.

The prospect of a change in US approach towards Burma doesn’t appear, however, to have persuaded the regime to review its own policies.

The international community has demanded a review by the junta of its constitution to ensure the inclusion of all opposition and ethnic parties in the 2010 election. But the junta has said that anyone who is against the constitution is an “enemy of the state.”

In other words, the military regime will definitely proceed with its roadmap, including the 2010 election, according to its own norms without considering any suggestions and demands by domestic and international communities.

So it’s clear how the 2010 election will be organized and what the result will be. There’s surely no chance of the regime risking another election defeat along the lines of the 1990 debacle.

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