MS Risk Blog

Election Results in Myanmar

Posted on in Myanmar title_rule

Under the leadership of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), remains on course for a landmark victory which if successful will give the South East Asian nation an opportunity to remake itself as an open democratic country for the first time in 25 years. Although results from Myanmar’s historic election are not yet final, the opposition have so far secured an extraordinary 327 seats in both chambers of parliament, just two short of an absolute majority which would enable them to elect a new president. Under Myanmar law, the NLD is required to secure a two thirds majority of seats not allocated to the military in order to nominate a candidate for the presidency. It is a complex process which requires both houses of parliament to chose between three presidential candidates and will, in all likelihood, not be resolved until next February.

Despite the role Suu Kyi has played in mobilising popular support for democratic reform, the former political prisoner will likely not serve in this office. Constitutional impediments established by her opponents will prevent her from being elected president on the grounds that she has two sons by a British husband, now deceased. The law, which some say was promulgated in order to prevent Suu Kyi from ever taking office, explicitly states that the president cannot have a foreign-born spouse or children. Despite this, Suu Kyi has said that if her party wins last Saturday’s election she will rule the country regardless. “I will run the government and we will have a president who will work in accordance with the policies of the NLD (National League for Democracy) ,” she told reporters. “We have a candidate that is ready to become the president … I will be above the president,” Suu Kyi said, adding that constitutional law did not prevent an individual from occupying a position above the presidency.

Even though an NLD victory looks like a forgone conclusion, there are two other alternative scenarios which demand consideration. 1) Suu Kyi’s party wins the most seats but a coalition of President Thein Sein’s Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), various ethnic parties and the army restores power to the incumbent. While unlikely, this could be achieved by the USDP with a comparatively small proportion of the vote. It would, however, be an extremely unpopular move, given the enormous outpouring of public support for Suu Kyi and the NLD. 2) Suu Kyi does not secure the requisite two-thirds majority and has to enter into a coalition with ethnic parties. Should this situation arise, Suu Kyi and the NLD would be required to negotiate with their new coalition partners over the choice of presidential candidates.

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