News / Asia

Analysts: Only Cosmetic Changes Expected From Burmese Elections

Members of the Hong Kong Coalition for a Free Burma hold posters of Burma's detained opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, during a demonstration in commemoration of the third anniversary of the Saffron Revolution, in Hong Kong, 27 Sep 2010
Members of the Hong Kong Coalition for a Free Burma hold posters of Burma's detained opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, during a demonstration in commemoration of the third anniversary of the Saffron Revolution, in Hong Kong, 27 Sep 2010

In less than two weeks, Burma will hold its first elections in 20 years.  Although the vote allows for civilian and opposition participation, analysts say the elections are unlikely to alter the military's grip on power.

Burma's military government is calling the November 7 parliamentary elections a step on the road to democracy.

Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch cautions that the vote will be a sham.  "There is an intention on the part of the military to create certain trappings of civilian rule, but really to entrench military rule - to give it a façade that may be more palatable to the international community, but not to give one iota of control to the civilians who might be placed into positions of formal authority."

Military's tight control

Roth moderated a day-long discussion of developments in Burma at The Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.

Panelist David Williams of the Center for Constitutional Democracy noted that while civilians may run for office, the military is guaranteed 25 percent of parliamentary seats and has veto power over the remaining 75 percent of candidates.  "The electoral commission is individually vetting candidates.  So no one will get on the ballot who is unacceptable to the regime."

And after the vote, said Williams, the government will be constitutionally-bound to enforce the military's wishes.  "After the elections, I think Burma will be a military dictatorship just as much as now.  The military will have the power, constitutionally, to do anything it wants to do without interference from the civilian government.  But if it ever gets tired of having a civilian government, it can declare a state of emergency and send everyone else home."

Opposition representation on local level

No one at the conference doubted that Burma's military will continue to exert ultimate power after the vote.  David Steinberg of Georgetown University said, however, that allowing civilian and opposition representation, however tenuous or subordinate to the armed forces, is a major departure from decades of military rule.

"It is the first election in 50 years when you will have opposition people sitting in the local parliament," said Steinberg.  "That is really important.  They will be a minority.  They will be subject to all kinds of restrictions, no doubt."

Steinberg also gave his thoughts on how the international community should deal with Burma and how it might most effectively press for change.  He said that merely criticizing the country's human-rights record and its treatment of dissidents - like Aung San Suu Kyi - has not proven effective, and that a more productive course might be to point out how the military's behavior undermines the goals of national unity that the armed forces says it is defending.

Calls to target military government's finances

Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen also questioned the effectiveness of international leaders and diplomats delivering long lists of human-rights grievances to Burmese officials.  "It is not enough for weak-voiced U.N. emissaries to assure us that the Burmese government has promised to lift the harshness of their regime and it is not adequate for Asean leaders to announce cheerfully that they gave the Burmese leader, quote, 'an earful' [of complaints].  The military butchers are happy to have their ears full, so long as their hands remain free."

According to Sen, sanctions against Burma should target the economic interests of its rulers and spare the Burmese people from hardship.

The situation in Burma likely  will be discussed during U.S. President Barack Obama's trip to Asia next month, which will include stops in India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea.

You May Like

Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Accuses Russia of Territorial Incursionsi
X
Zlatica Hoke
August 28, 2014 4:07 AM
Ukraine says a key border town (Novoazovsk) and surrounding areas of in southeastern Ukraine have fallen under the control of Russia's military. President Poroshenko says "Russian troops have actually been brought into Ukraine." Despite repeated denials from Moscow, Ukraine accuses the Kremlin of providing weapons and fighters to separatists in eastern Ukraine, toward the Russian leadership's alleged goal of annexing that strategic territory. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Accuses Russia of Territorial Incursions

Ukraine says a key border town (Novoazovsk) and surrounding areas of in southeastern Ukraine have fallen under the control of Russia's military. President Poroshenko says "Russian troops have actually been brought into Ukraine." Despite repeated denials from Moscow, Ukraine accuses the Kremlin of providing weapons and fighters to separatists in eastern Ukraine, toward the Russian leadership's alleged goal of annexing that strategic territory. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid