Burma Votes for Change: The Challenges Ahead

Issue Date April 2016
Volume 27
Issue 2
Page Numbers 101-15
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Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy’s sweeping victory in Burma’s November 2015 elections and the military’s acquiescence in allowing the NLD to take the reins of power have justly been described as remarkable and historic milestones. Yet a number of unresolved critical issues still loom. The aspirations of the people of Burma and of the newly elected democratic forces are still seriously constrained by the constitution imposed by the military, by Burman Buddhist nationalism, by entrenched oligarchic interests, and by tough structural conditions. The biggest challenge of all: Burma is a “robustly” plural and deeply divided society. Without political consensus about the nature of the state among key stakeholders, including all significant ethnic and religious groups, the military will not withdraw from politics, the transition to civilian rule will not happen, peace will remain elusive, and Burma’s democratization will stagnate. Burma’s transition can succeed and serve as an example of a “hard-case” country that successfully democratizes despite lacking favorable structural conditions. Yet it is important to understand just how fragile and unsettled the whole process still is.

About the Author

Igor Blaževič, a human-rights activist based in Prague who spends much of his time in Rangoon, is founder and director of the One World Human Rights Documentary Film Festival in Prague and a former member of the steering committee of the World Movement for Democracy. Since early 2011, he has run (with Educational Initiatives, a local NGO) transition-to-democracy courses in Burma for political and civil society activists. In 2009, he was awarded the Alice Garrigue Masaryk Award for Human Rights by the U.S. Embassy in Prague.

View all work by Igor Blaževič