NLD may be haunted by lack of experience

By Xing Yun Source:Global Times Published: 2015-11-12 23:33:02

Myanmar is waiting for the final poll count. The major opposition party National League for Democracy (NLD) appeared set for a landslide victory. Several heavyweight candidates from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) have been defeated. If the NLD stays on course, it has a chance to become the largest party in parliament and form the government

The NLD has won largely because the Myanmese have been fed up with the junta or the military-led USDP and eager to change. Many voters pick the NLD not out of a clear thought that the NLD's candidates have better governing capacity than those of the USDP. They simply want to change the ruling party and shift the leadership, and see how things will go on.

NLD's leader Aung San Suu Kyi led a nationwide and widely supported campaign to canvass for her party, promising to further Myanmar's democratic transition if the NLD gains power. In addition, the turnout in the election was 80 percent, which is an advantage for the NLD. The government and military have pledged a free and fair election, allowing over 10,000 watchers to scrutinize the election. There is little chance for cheating.

It is a bumpy road for Suu Kyi and her NLD to get the ruling position. In the election in 1990, Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest. The NLD won but the junta vetoed the result. In 2010, Suu Kyi was still under house arrest, and she led the NLD to boycott the election. Now, the NLD is as close as it has ever been to ruling the country.

The prospects are positive, because the election is being conducted after years of political transition. The president and military leaders have promised to respect and accept the result, which means there is unlikely to be a recurrence of what happened in 1990. However, there are still concerns.

The first concern is the NLD's lack of governing experience. The NLD has not even governed a small town. It has only 40 representatives in this session of parliament, and the majority of the core leadership is too old to assume important responsibilities.

Besides, the NLD has long neglected the cultivation of younger generations of leadership. After winning the election, NLD members will be in charge of the majority of the parliament, and they will also try to play a leading role in the establishment of the executive branch.

Myanmar is haunted by many complications, including ethnic clashes, religious conflicts, sluggish economy and many other social problems. The NLD might be skillful at promoting democracy, but it remains uncertain whether it is able to govern the country well.

The second concern is that Suu Kyi is barred from running for the presidency, under a constitutional clause many believe to be specifically targeted at her, due to the nationality of her late husband and children.

But as the chairperson of the NLD, she claimed to be "above the president" if the NLD gets the presidency. This statement, which implies a pursuit of overriding power, is suspected of contravening the constitution, which stipulates that the president is the top leader of Myanmar. Suu Kyi's strong advocacy has been greeted with criticisms.

The third concern is to what extent Suu Kyi will compromise to cooperate with the military and form a reconciliatory government. The USDP's downfall already goes against the interests of the military. If Suu Kyi and her NLD try to amend the constitution, it might trigger the military's countermeasures. The NLD should keep in mind that although it is qualified to form a new government, it still has to respect the terms and provisions that guarantee the military's status in Myanmese politics.

Through the election, the Myanmese voters have placed great hopes in Suu Kyi and her NLD. However, if the NLD proves inept at governing the country, which is still troubled by domestic conflicts and economic downturn, the party could also be abandoned by the same voters in the next election.

The author is a Myanmar affairs commentator based in Beijing.

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