The day that Burma had long-awaited finally arrived . Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has demonstrated that she is indeed the choice and hope for the future of the Burmese people. Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), contested polls for the first time since 1990 and won at least 40 out of the 45 seats which were at stake in the by-polls held on April 2. The by-polls were held as a result of four parliamentary members joining the government, thereby vacating the seats to be contested.
While Suu Kyi’s victory will be celebrated around Burma and the world — where she stands out as a heroic figure who has waged one of the longest struggles for democracy in modern times, spening much of the last 20 years under house arrest, barred from taking part in national politics — the question still remains as to whether the victory of the NLD, a party founded by Suu Kyi’s father, will bring any real change. Burma’s parliament, with a lower house consisting of 440 seats and an upper house of 224 seats remains dominated by the army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which holds 348 seats in total. Furthermore, soldiers enrolled in the army retain another 156 seats. The result, therefore, will not mean immediate change, but it does send out a very clear signal as to where Burma wishes to head in the future.
The victory also gives Aung San Suu Kyi a chance to raise her voice in favour of faster reforms and a move towards full-fledged democracy. In a country that has known military rule for most of its history, its end in November 2010 was a welcome change for ordinary Burmese. Her success delivers a setback for the ruling party which will inevitably be weakened by NLD’s victory. There is now a greater hope that the principles Suu Kyi fought so hard for may eventually be achieved and the people permitted to have a say in decisions that affect their future and their nation. This is an interesting time for Burma as, the events of the past few days will give new courage to others around the world who are also struggling for democracy, freedom and peace for their people.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2012.
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