MANDALAY, MYANMAR —
Although Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy achieved a historic victory in recent parliamentary elections, it will be almost five months before the shape of Myanmar's next government is revealed.
Nevertheless, citizens have already begun projecting their own hopes and dreams onto the woman known here as "Mother Suu."
Showing their enthusiasm for democratic change, a dozen staff members at a Mandalay stationery shop volunteered as unofficial election observers on election day. They now hope for better job prospects and improvements to the country’s dire education system, in which students are asked to memorize answers to questions in an unfamiliar language.
“A lot of changes are needed in Myanmar, but the main thing is education," said Mya Pwint Phyu, one of the workers. "The education system in the country is really bad. I’m a university graduate, and even I don’t know how to speak English.”
For a party whose new parliamentarians will include medical doctors, former political prisoners and several poets, the energy of the opposition movement will have to compensate for the lack of economic and political expertise. Despite the absence of detailed policies, though, supporters are entrusting their faith in Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership.
“This is a very important time for our country," said Mandalay NLD Chairman Shwe Hla. "We are in a transition period. During this kind of change, the support of the people is the most important.”
Myint Kyaw remembers taking part in the 1988 nationwide democratic uprising, and the disappointment he felt when the military ignored the NLD's election victory two years later.
Now running a tea shop, the traditional venue for political debate in Myanmar, he says he supports the NLD because he is tired of the country being run for the benefit of a small elite.
“Our country has a lot of resources, but now those resources have been grabbed by a few people," Myint Kyaw said. "If the people can get those resources, the country can change.”
While voters understand that change will take time, today the expectations of the people of Myanmar could not be higher.