Yesterday, National Convention (NC) delegates reconvened for a final session at Nyaunghnapin. There, NC chairman Thein Sein reiterated and stressed the need to stick to the ‘basic principles’ made in 1996 and the need to follow the six objectives, 5 of which are honorable (on keeping Burma together, creating a multi-party democracy, and nourishing justice, equality and liberty in Burma) and the last one, on ensuring that the Armed Forces will retain leadership in national politics.
The Irrawaddy reports that:
The current final session of the National Convention marks the completion of the first stage of the seven-step road map laid down by the regime in 2003. Though the regime has said a referendum and elections will follow “quickly,” the road map’s second step lacks any clear indication of what the regime will do next.
Currently, Burma is on its first step (reconvening the NC) in its road map to democracy. After the draft proposals and the basic outline are completed, ‘disciplined’ implementations will be made to begin democratizing the country. After that, a constitution, based on the very detailed outlines of the draft proposals will be created. Then, it is up to the voters to decide whether they want such a constitution through a referendum.
But what if the voters reject the Constitution? What will happen next? Will it be fixed and altered to suit what voters want, or will it just be put into effect? It seems that referendum is not far off, so there must be a backup plan in this so-called road map. It seems interesting that Naypyidaw has already been furnished with a multitude of ministry buildings which may not exist in the future (the executive is responsible for tailoring what ministries are needed).
My suspicions are that the Constitution will be passed overwhelmingly, either through pressure or through the open-ballot system (opposite of the Australian ballot system, where voters’ choices are confidential). I think that a non-governmental body needs to oversee elections so that they are fair, and that people should not be pressured, either by the State Peace and Development Council’s civilian body the USDA or by fear of being ostracized. And if it does not pass, there will be repercussions. After the 1990 elections of MPs for the Burmese parliament, the junta rephrased what they had originally said, stating that the elections had been for National Convention delegates to draw up a draft constitution.
And I highly doubt that the National League of Democracy, at least in its present form, will be allowed to participate in future elections (step no. 5 on the road map: holding free and fair elections for [Legislative bodies] according to the new constitution).
A 2004 article on Burma’s democratization from the Institute Of Strategic Studies, Islamabad concludes that:
There are positive indications, so far, that the regime in Myanmar is willing to accept a multi-party political system with a permanent political role for the military not subservient to the civilian political authority, owing to the complex issues of national security and cohesion.
Perhaps the new Armed Forces will become less belligerent and powerful; this is all I can hope for. I’m skeptical of how the new Burmese government will work (if it ever does come to life), but there is some promise for a ‘democratic’ Burma.