Joy on streets but challenges ahead for Myanmar

With Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party looking to have won a landslide victory in Myanmar’s first proper democratic election in decades the next big challenge will be the smooth handing over of power by the current military-backed government, Labour’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson David Shearer says.

The MP has just returned from Myanmar where he served as an election observer.

“From the votes counted so far it appears the National League for Democracy has won an overwhelming victory.

“People went to the polls – many for the first time – with enthusiasm and optimism, something that was moving to watch.

“That is testimony to Aung San Suu Kyi’s tenacity and the affection in which she is held.

“Myanmar has come a long way in the past five years, but Aung San Suu Kyi faces enormous challenges.

“Democracy is still tenuous. The country is poor, corruption is endemic, and there are considerable tensions with ethnic minorities, including the Rohingya who were largely disenfranchised by this election.

“Expectations on her are high and the challenge of meeting them will require the new government to have a full grip on the levers of power, and to use them judiciously.

“A new president will need to be chosen – a selection process involving the upper, lower house and the military. The constitution drafted by the military prevents Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president; she will need a president who she can be confident will usher in her reforms and policies.

“That constitution also reserves 25 percent of the seats in both the lower and upper houses of Parliament to the military. After more than 50 years of military rule and dominance, international scrutiny will be needed to ensure that this first step to democracy is followed through,” David Shearer says.