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Burma Before the Elections


Burma’s upcoming elections will be a test of how much the country’s political scene has changed since the generals’ tentative liberalisation programme began five years ago. The National League for Democracy, led by democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, is likely to win big. Still, it may not get the two-thirds of the parliamentary seats open for competition that it needs to form a government. If it does not, it ought to blame itself, for the NLD has been unwilling to enter into coalitions either with much-respected civic organisations or with the increasingly vocal and well-organised ethnic parties. At the same time, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party has led a smart campaign just short of breaking the electoral laws. Both the USDP and ethnic parties might do better than expected and cost the NLD – dominated and controlled by Suu Kyi – a crucial opportunity to advance democracy.