The cold hard reality is that yesterday was just the beginning of the next round of political competition. Once the votes are in, the heavy business of negotiation and repositioning will rumble forward. Surely, the election will allocate power based on the people’s will? If only it was so straightforward.
It was pitch dark and strangely silent when we left the house. Ours has always been a fairly quiet residential neighbourhood but there were none of the small shops and street stalls that would normally be seen setting up early in the morning. I spied only five people along the five-minute drive to the polling station. From Myanmar Now
So here we go. By the time I write my next column the people of Myanmar – most of them at least – will have had the chance to vote in the country’s first reasonably credible elections after decades of military rule.
On November 8, millions of Myanmar’s citizens will take to the polls for the first general election since military rule formally ended in 2011. Observers have been hoping for a watershed event in the country’s democratic transition, a demonstration that Myanmar would be consolidating the gains of recent years and expanding the circle of participants in public life.
The first time I voted in Myanmar was, if I recall correctly, in 1986. I was an undergraduate student attending the University of Yangon and it was the last socialist election before the tumultuous 1988 uprising that led to the end of socialism in Myanmar.
Across Myanmar there is a sense of excitement for Sunday’s polls. Old and young, Bamar or ethnic minority, Union Solidarity and Development Party or National League for Democracy or other supporter, this election has already fostered a sense of inclusion and national pride that extends the sense of optimism that has been building in recent years. This is in spite of the concerns raised about the electoral process and uncertainty of the post-election environment. No matter who wins, this election has had a meaningful impact on ordinary people. It has reaffirmed that Myanmar voices matter.
Territorial disputes often seem to fester forever. There are flare-ups, clashes, resolutions, betrayals – and then the circle game begins again, as neither side wants to cede land. It is almost like an amputation or the severing of an affair; there is an intense and unshakeable resistance to losing part of one’s being.