Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Could Burma follow the South Africa democracy model?

Wednesday, 22 August 2012 15:39 Myat Thu Pan

(Commentary) – Could the recent meeting between Burmese President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi lead to a smooth transition to genuine democracy?

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein in a file photo from a TV screenshot. Photo: MRTV

Given the current lopsided balance of power in the Parliament, it’s impossible to know how events will transpire between now and 2015, the date of the next national election. Even if Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy were to garner a big win, the military would still have a tight grip on power.

What are the odds that Thein Sein and Suu Kyi could collaborate and compromise to forge a path to a real democratic transition that could be a win-win situation for the people and the military?

A BBC program called the Burmese Road To Democracy suggested that Burma should pursue a transition model based on South Africa. Prof. Larry Diamond of Stanford University, a respected political scientist, also suggested South Africa as a useful model.

Although the military is still the most powerful force in the country, Burma also now has very powerful democratic leaders – and not just Suu Kyi. It also has a formidable collective leadership in the second-tier leaders of Min Ko Naing and his 88 student group leaders.

Most importantly, the 88-group has the backing of the nation as evidenced by the results of the recent by-election.

Wouldn’t it be surprising and productive if both the government and the stronger democratic factions could hammer out a consensus in the coming years and agree on a model to achieve a true democracy prior to the election?

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