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Since 1962 Burma has been ruled by a series of military regimes. Even though there have been some reforms happening the country, the military still maintains strong control of each branch of government. Below is a brief overview of modern Burmese domestic politics.

1990elections1990 Elections

In the fall of 1988, after a nationwide uprising there was a coup by the army against the ruling socialist party (National Unity Party). The military eventually allowed for elections to be held in 1990, but although the National League for Democracy (NLD) won 80% of the seats in Parliament, the military did not honor the results and put many NLD members, elected MPs, and activists behind bars. The military wanted to draft their own constitution, and so in 1993 began the National Convention to put the constitution together. 

votenoThe 2008 Constitution

After 14 years, the National Convention to draft the Constitution met for the last time. In a national referendum, the final version of the document was voted upon despite being held right after the tragic devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis.

The Constitution contains numerous provisions that further entrench the military’s role in government. A lot of attention has been paid to the requirement that a full quarter of Parliamentary seats be reserved for the military. However, there is a much bigger problem. As constitutional expert David Williams has noted, "under the constitution, the Tatmadaw [the Military] is not subject to civilian government, and it writes its own portfolio. It can do whatever it wants." The military's responsibilities are very broadly and vaguely defined and there is no effective rule-of-law when it comes to their jurisdiction. Further evidence of the military’s vast power is found in Article 232(b)(ii), “the Commander-in-Chief will appoint the Ministers for Defence, Home Affairs, and Border Affairs” which virtually affects all civilian activity. There are also no elements of the Constitution which ensure human rights or rights for ethnic people. There had been a widespread “Vote No” campaign organized by activists throughout the country, encouraging people to not support the sham constitutional referendum. The May 2008 constitutional referendum was held right after Cyclone Nargis destroyed vast parts of Burma. There were many reports of manipulation and the military claimed it received a vote yes of 93.8%

 (Video: 'This is Not Democracy' by Burma Partnership/Kestrel Productions)


electioncartoon2010 Elections

In 2010, elections were held that would put in place the new constitution. However, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party decided not to register to run because they did not believe that the elections would be free and fair, and there were some strong flaws in the way the election process was being handled. For example, the Political Parties Registration Law imposed many provisions that limited the joining, remaining in, forming, or maintaining of a political party. One such provision stating that “persons desirous of establishing a party” shall not be “a convict”, which applied to Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma’s thousands of other political prisoners. There were widespread reports of fraud, manipulation, violence, intimidation and abuse of government power.  In the end, the military backed party, the USDP won a suspiciously high 76.5% of the votes. On the day after the election, conflict broke out on the Thai-Burma border, as section of military-backed militia force broke away in anger over the election and the new constitution. 

(Video: The Story Behind Burma’s Elections DVB)



2012 By-Elections            

By the time of the 2012 elections, the above law was changed so that Daw Suu Kyi could participate. The NLD party and others ran for 45 seats, only amounting to less than 5% of the total in Parliament. Opposition candidates reported harassment and intimidation by local authorities, destruction and defacing of posters, and concerns over vote-rigging using advance ballots. 

(Video: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi holding press conference right before the elections)




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