Monday, 14 July 2008

Burmese politics: road ahead

14 July 2008

New Delhi - By having is draft constitution approved "overwhelmingly", Burma's military regime has indicated its determination to carry on with its planned 'seven steps road map'.

But the road ahead for its fifth step – general elections in 2010 – promises to be a rough ride, with several political players having diverse opinions regarding contesting the junta's planned election.

Burma's main political opposition, the National League for Democracy, which has opposed every step of the junta's road map, said it is still undecided whether it will contest in the 2010 election.

The NLD, which has clung to the results of 1990 elections, has voiced its opposition to the junta's planned election but said, "So far, we have no yet decided whether to join in the 2010 election or not."

The NLD said it will be against its own law for the junta to conduct another election with out upholding the results of the 1990 election. The Nobel Peace Prize winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi led NLD said the junta's planned election lacks legitimacy and cannot override the 1990 election mandate, where the NLD won more than 80 per cent of the seats in parliament.

Akin to the NLD's indecision, several ethnic armed ceasefire groups said they had not made up their minds whether to join the junta's road map.

The Kachin Independence Organization, which has been waging an armed struggle for over 40 years against the junta, said it is yet to adopt a concrete policy on the junta's election plans.

The KIO, which has a ceasefire pact with the junta and have been joining the junta's road map since its first step of convening a National Convention, said it has so far maintained its old policy.

"So far, we are maintaining our old policy that is not to involve the KIO as a group to join the junta's road map, and if individuals or groups take part it will be totally their decision and have nothing to do with KIO," Major Gun Maw, a spokesperson of the KIO told Mizzima.

United Wa State Army, another ethnic armed ceasefire group, also said it has so far taken no clear decision on whether to join the junta's planned elections in 2010. But the UWSA, which has joined the junta's other four steps of the road map, indicated that their decision may depend on the pressure they face.

"So far we have not met and decided on what to do in 2010 elections, and we have not got any information from the government as yet," a spokesperson for the UWSA told Mizzima.

While these groups have not decided on whether to contest the elections, another ethnic armed group, the New Democratic Army – Kachin (NDA-K), however, said it will push for the formation of a single political party for Kachin people.

Denying rumours that the NDA-K is planning to alter its name and transform its group into a political party to contest the junta's elections, a spokesperson of the NDA-K said, "We will not alter the name of our group, but we will push for a separate political party that will represent the Kachin people."

However, diverse opinions persist among ceasefire armed groups.

The New Mon State Party, an ethnic Mon political party that also has an armed wing, said it will stay out of the junta's proposed elections. The NMSP, which withdrew from the junta's National Convention, have demanded a more inclusive road map.

"We will not contest the elections, as we have not been able to be a part of the constitution drafting process. We will continue to maintain our stand of not joining the road map," the NMSP spokesperson told Mizzima.

The junta's plan

Though several of Burma's key political players – the NLD and several ethnic armed groups – have indicated their unwillingness to support the junta's election, the junta, however, is not lacking in supporters to carry on with their plans.

Aung Naing Oo, a Burmese analyst in Thailand said the junta has already made plans as to who should be allowed to participate in the ensuing elections.

"I can't see the junta allowing many opposition groups to contest the elections, as this is their game and they will make sure that it is played according to their rules," Aung Naing Oo said.

He added that the junta is likely to promote individual politicians as well as groups including the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), a pro-junta civil organization, and National Unity Party (NUP), a political party that supports the junta.

"It is difficult to predict exactly but what is sure is that the junta will not allow many opposition parties or may not even allow any opposition," he added.

Nay Moe Wai, a young politician in Rangoon, said while individual politicians are likely to participate in the 2010 elections, there might not be many political parties as Burmese people, in their struggle for survival, have no time and interest in forming political parties.

"People in Burma are busy eking out a daily living, and so at the most there might be only about five political parties emerging," said Nay Moe Wai, raised on political ideologies in the Burmese political community.

Unlike the opposition and ethnic armed groups, Nay Moe Wai said he truly believes that the junta's road map can bring about certain changes in Burma's political scenario.

"Everything does not remain unchanged forever, so supporting the constitution is the best solution at the moment, as it will continue to evolve with time," he said.

He also added that he will take part in the 2010 election as he believes this is the only political solution in the present circumstances.

"I plan to take part in the elections, because I believe that if I am within the fold I can have a say to what I like and dislike. By remaining out of the fold, I will not be able to be a part of the process," he said.

USDA, Pro-junta civil organizations

The USDA, a pro-junta group formed by Snr. Gen. Than Shwe 15 years ago, is widely believed that it will transform into a political party, as the junta continues with its plan to have a civilian administration.

The USDA in recent years has proved effective in carrying out the junta's propaganda's and in crushing all opposition activities including the popular monks' protest in September 2007.

Dr. Naing Aung, a member of the Network for Democracy and Development, which has extensively researched the USDA, said the junta's main purpose of forming the USDA was to transform it into a puppet political party, through which the junta plans to continue its rule.

"It is very much likely that the junta will transform USDA into a political party and make them contest the 2010 election," Dr. Naing Aung said.

But unlike the popular idea of the USDA turning into a political party, a few analysts including Aung Naing Oo reckon that the junta might not turn the USDA into a political party but use influential individuals from it to contest the upcoming elections.

"If the USDA is turned into a political party, the junta will require another [civilian] group to fill the role the USDA has played," said Aung Naing Oo. However, he does not dismiss the possibility that the USDA might turn into a political party.

However, he said, "It is still very difficult to predict what the junta will actually do with the USDA, there are possibilities both ways."

Either way: junta rules

The junta, despite all its activities, is aiming to prolong its rule and the prospect for genuine change is slim.

"I do not see all these changes or moves as positive, the junta is doing it so that it can remain in power," Aung Naing Oo said.

He added that both political parties as well as ethnic armed groups that have not decided its stand would greatly suffer because the junta has its own plan.

Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese military analyst based on the Sino-Burmese border, said as the junta continues with its proposed elections, armed groups that have no clear and distinct objectives are likely to collapse.

"There will be no genuine changes but a new form of dictatorship," Aung Kyaw Zaw said.

It will cause a few people to quit everything and go back to their normal lives, but a few others are likely to leave their struggles and join the junta for the advantages that they receive, he added.

"But the struggle for genuine change will continue, and armed rebellion will continue with a few others who havw the commitment to bring genuine change," Aung Kyaw Zaw said.

Interviews & information contributed by all Mizzima reporters

No comments: