The Myan­mar elec­tion: What we know so far

Kuwait Times - - ANALY S I S - Who won? Will NLD form the next govt? How will the pres­i­dent be cho­sen?

Myan­mar’s op­po­si­tion looked poised yes­ter­day for a land­slide poll win, but even if Aung San Suu Kyi’s party does form a ma­jor­ity, gov­ern­ing a im­pov­er­ished na­tion where the mil­i­tary re­tains huge in­flu­ence will be no mean feat. Here’s what we know so far about the elec­tion and what it means for the nascent democ­racy.

Right now it’s hard to say un­equiv­o­cally, as full re­sults aren’t in. But from the few seats de­clared, Suu Kyi’s National League for Democ­racy (NLD) party is sweep­ing the board. Her party has won 78 of the 88 seats an­nounced so far in the lower house, which has a to­tal of 323 seats up for grabs. They have done par­tic­u­larly well in their Yangon strong­hold, tak­ing all the city’s de­clared seats, as well as mak­ing strong gains in the im­por­tant Man­dalay re­gion. And they’ve even taken a few seats in Myan­mar’s eth­nic mi­nor­ity re­gions. That sug­gests the NLD may mop up in re­gions where many thought the vote was more likely to go to smaller eth­nic par­ties. The NLD is also dom­i­nat­ing many re­gional par­lia­men­tary seats — 142 out of 162 de­clared so far-which could give them sig­nif­i­cant in­flu­ence over im­por­tant lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. There are a to­tal of 652 re­gional par­lia­men­tary seats to fill. No up­per house re­sults have been re­leased yet, nor do we know yet whether Suu Kyi has won in her own con­stituency of Kawhmu.

At the cur­rent rate of re­sults, it cer­tainly looks like it. Un­der Myan­mar’s com­pli­cated 2008 mil­i­tarycrafted con­sti­tu­tion, the NLD needs to take at least 67 per­cent of seats in both the lower and up­per houses to form a gov­ern­ment. Its ri­vals, the army­backed Union Sol­i­dar­ity and De­vel­op­ment Party (USDP), only needs to win a third. That’s be­cause a quar­ter of seats in the leg­is­la­ture are re­served for mil­i­tary ap­pointees. In a BBC in­ter­view yes­ter­day, Suu Kyi said she be­lieved the NLD were on track to take 75 per­cent of seats, which would push her party well over the 67 per­cent thresh­old. Chal­lenges ahead? Firstly, Suu Kyi can’t be pres­i­dent-she is cur­rently for­bid­den from tak­ing the top spot un­der the con­sti­tu­tion, which bans those with for­eign chil­dren. Her two sons are Bri­tish.

Sec­ondly, even if she forms a ma­jor­ity, any ma­jor con­sti­tu­tional re­form is go­ing to be very dif­fi­cult. The army bloc within the leg­is­la­ture can ef­fec­tively veto any changes to the char­ter. That means a Suu Kyi pres­i­dency re­mains a dis­tant prospect-an ob­struc­tion the pow­er­house politi­cian cryp­ti­cally vowed to cir­cum­nav­i­gate by be­ing “above the pres­i­dent”. A third is­sue is that the mil­i­tary still holds other con­sti­tu­tional cards, in­clud­ing the top se­cu­rity posts at the home, de­fense and bor­der af­fairs min­istries. “There are lots of levers of power and they control the ones they need to,” said Richard Horsey, an in­de­pen­dent Myan­mar an­a­lyst.

Myan­mar’s pres­i­dent is di­rectly elected by the leg­is­la­ture. With the ex­ist­ing par­lia­ment sit­ting for a fi­nal ses­sion from Mon­day, new MPs won’t take up their seats un­til the end of Jan­uary. Once the new par­lia­ment is up and run­ning, elect­ing the new pres­i­dent can be­gin, some time around Fe­bru­ary or March 2016. The lower and up­per houses will each put for­ward a can­di­date, as will the mil­i­tary bloc. The whole par­lia­ment then votes on the three-the win­ner be­comes pres­i­dent and the losers vice pres­i­dents. Even if the NLD’s cho­sen can­di­date wins, he or she will likely have at least one mil­i­tary-backed vice pres­i­dent. Ni­cholas Far­relly, direc­tor of the Myan­mar Re­search Cen­tre at the Aus­tralian National University, said the NLD is well aware of the up­hill strug­gle they face. The NLD “has thought about gov­ern­ing for more than a quar­ter of a cen­tury. That’s a long time to wait”, he said.— AFP

Is­sues

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