November 9, 2010 / 5:56 AM / 7 years ago

Snap Analysis: Myanmar election puts army in driver's seat

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The landslide win by Myanmar’s main military-backed party in its first election in 20 years suggests a new parliament will not alter the authoritarian status quo in one of the world’s most reclusive states.

Myanmar’s two largest pro-democracy parties conceded defeat on Tuesday after the military junta’s political juggernaut, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), said it had won up to 80 percent of seats up for grabs in parliament.

Pro-democracy parties accused the military junta of manipulating Sunday’s election, which has been widely condemned by the United States, Europe and Japan as a sham to entrench half a century of military rule behind a civilian facade.

Final results have yet to be announced. But with the opposition conceding defeat and the army-backed USDP claiming to have won most seats, here are some of the implications.

* The vote is unlikely to change the status quo significantly, even though parties opposed to the military junta have won some parliamentary representation. The cabinet, which will be appointed by a yet-to-be-selected president, might not feature a single elected lawmaker.

* Parliament is expected to rubber-stamp policies of the current rulers, who could remain in charge either directly in government or as behind-the-scenes puppeteers.

* The overwhelming number of legislative seats won by the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) means the military and its proxies will have control of parliament, since generals appointed by the armed forces already have a quota of 25 percent of all house seats

That means the current regime’s policies are certain to sail through. Opposition lawmakers will have little say and no chance to secure the 75 percent of votes needed to amend a constitution that favors and reserves power for the military.

* The military’s influence on the legislature means it is almost certain the president it appoints will be one favorable to the current junta.

* The scheduled release on Saturday of Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi, the figurehead of Myanmar’s struggle against dictatorship, could still throw a spanner in the works.

Suu Kyi and her now-defunct National League for Democracy (NLD) say the election and the constitution were fundamentally flawed. Her supporters are not expected to fade from the scene and might court public support to build protests against the formation of a new government, raising the risk of an uprising and brutal suppression by troops.

* Although most analysts say the election will bring little immediate change, there are hopes of reforms and some political space for civilians in coming years. A parliamentary system, flawed or not, has finally been created, and for the first time in five decades political issues will be openly debated. * Myanmar’s new system will inevitably suffer problems as it is rolled out, and there could be ideological clashes between the old power clique, military progressives and the civilian elite.

With power and patronage traditionally in the hands of a few generals only, the new structure could give rise to opportunists within the military. As such, there’s an outside chance a rival faction of generals sidelined by the current regime could seek to oust junta supremo Than Shwe and his loyalists in a coup against the new government.

Editing by Jason Szep

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