Home Contact Us  

Peace & Conflict Database - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4651, 8 September 2014


Myanmar's Political Transition: Challenges of the 2015 Election
Shankari Sundararaman
Chairperson, Centre for Indo-Pacific Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Recent changes shaping Myanmar’s transition process have highlighted the tenuousness of the Process in that country. Even as the upcoming 2015 election is set to be one of the most important indicators of this democratic transition, events transpiring in the country are worrisome. The gains made over the past four years – since the reform process began in 2011 – may be affected by several recent developments that have raised anxieties vis-à-vis the trajectory the transition will follow.

What are the indicators of changes shaping Myanmar? What is their significance in the context of the 2015 elections?

Since the 2010 elections and the announcement of the reform process in 2011, Myanmar has seen some credible changes that have altered the perceptions of both regional countries and the international community. The 2012 by-election – where the National League for Democracy (NLD) won 43 seats of 45 seats – was seen as a watershed moment in the Process and was heralded as a marker of the shift shaping Myanmar. However, the past few months have seen challenges to the reform process. They highlight the complex issues that need to be resolved to ensure the free-ness and fairness of the 2015 elections. They include constitutional reforms; greater freedom and space for the media; management of ethnic conflicts and communal violence; and viable political space for all minorities within Myanmar.

The Constitution Conundrum
First on the list is the debate for the amendment of Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution – that has ensued for the past few years.  This Constitution strongly endorses a role for the military through the implementation of the National Defence and Security Council (NDSC) – that clearly visualises a role for the armed forces in two capacities:

a. in the administration of the country via reservations in the parliament, and
b. in the protection and preservation of the state

This allows for one fourth of the parliamentary seats to be reserved for the armed forces – and is seen as crucial to the stability of the state. Additionally, there exists a provision under Article 436 that currently demands over 75 per cent votes in the parliament to make amends to the Constitution – an impossible task given that 25 per cent of seats reserved for the military allows for the right to veto any move to reframe the charter. In July 2014, Aung San Suu Kyi led a signature campaign towards amending this caveat; it still shows no signs of progress. 

The second debate relates directly to Suu Kyi’s role with regards to Article 59 (f) that debars any person from the presidency on account of being related to foreigners. This directly impinges on Suu Kyi’s chances to lead her party to victory in the 2015 elections. Given how the NLD does not have a second rung of leadership to carry on the party mantle in the absence of Suu Kyi’s  influential and charismatic guidance, this directly undermines the party’s effectiveness in the upcoming elections.

The Tense State-Media Relationship
Furthermore, there exists the challenge of managing relations with the media. Last month there were reports that five journalists had been arrested and charged with violation of the 1923 Burma State Secrets Act for allegedly leaking sensitive information in the press. In another incident, journalists were booked under violation of the 1950 Emergency Act for allegedly giving unverified statements in the media. One visible indicator of change since the announcement of the reform process was the lifting of restrictions that had been imposed on the press. The aforementioned incidents have once again highlighted the tenuousness of State-media relations.

In the aftermath of these two incidents, President Thein Sein’s resolve to meet with the Press Council was a sound move; and the media was asked to play the role of a stronger stakeholder in the reform process, and to show greater responsibility in its approach towards reporting of incidents that were sensitive.

Ethnic Conflict and Reconciliation Efforts
A key challenge facing the country is the nature of shape the peace process with ethnic minorities will take. Today, after nearly 60 years of armed conflict between the state and its ethnic nationalities, there is a move towards a National Ceasefire Agreement that is being coordinated by the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team. While individual ethnic groups have already signed ceasefire agreements, most of them are very fragile and have been unable to move towards any political resolution. More importantly, political negotiations that will follow the ceasefire will be the crux of any resolution. Bringing major changes to both sides’ perceptions will be a greater challenge. Compounding the ethnic challenge is the levels of religious violence that have been evident in recent times. Although, lately, there has been some discussion on moving towards some form of a federal structure, the discourse is still vague and undefined.  

The Thein Sein government has made credible headway on the roadmap to a democratic transition, in the past four years. The challenge to any transitional phase is more evident when it comes to issues of institutional change and consolidation. This will be a critical phase Naypyidaw will have to address in the coming days.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee

Related Articles
Aparupa Bhattacherjee,
"Myanmar: How Free is the Contemporary Media?," 30 June 2014
Aparupa Bhattacherjee,
"Myanmar’s National Census: Fuelling Ethnic Crises," 18 June 2014
Aparupa Bhattacherjee,
"Myanmar: Is Tatmadaw Assuming a Proactive Role?," 20 May 2014
Aparupa Bhattacherjee,
"Myanmar: Peace in Kachin State?," 30 April 2014

Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015

Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua

Modi in Myanmar: From ‘Look East’ to ‘Act East’

The ASEAN's Centrality in the Indo-Pacific Region

South China Sea: Intransigence Over Troubled Waters

Indonesia: 2014 Presidential Election Explained

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 January  February  March
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.