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TOP 10 Events of 2012—No 2

sister publication, M-ZINE+, has selected what its editors have decided are the 10 biggest events or issues in Burma over the past 12 months.

We began the countdown on December 22 at No. 10, and will recall one issue each day until we finish on December 31 with the most momentous event of the year.

No rest for the little elves at, we will be working all the way through Xmas and New Year, bringing you the latest and most accurate news from Burma.

No. 2 Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD sweeps April by-elections
Aung San Suu Kyi campaigning in Naypyitaw, Burma's capital. Photo: Mizzima
Years from now, assuming all goes well, historians may regard the April 2012 Myanmar by-elections as a symbolic turning point. With 45 seats (37 in the Lower House, 6 in the Upper, and 2 in regional bodies) at stake, the National League for Democracy (NLD) effectively swept the boards, capturing 44.

The actual number of seats contested was small in terms of real power, in so far as the national parliament wields what the military doesn’t still exercise behind the scenes. The 37 Lower House seats being contested represented a mere 11 percent of the total, while there is still the 25 percent arrogated to the military by the Constitution, a bloc that nominally weighs in on the side of the ruling party.

Nonetheless, the by-elections were something of a historic compromise with both ruling and opposition parties giving up and getting something. The NLD finally abandoned any idea of wanting to turn back the clock to the 1990 elections. In return, its members have entered the nation’s political system and are better able to affect changes from within.

In return, there is the possibility that, come 2015, it could win a national election and should the margin be large enough to countervail the military’s 25 percent plus that of the USDP, become the ruling party.

Thus, albeit on their own terms, Thein Sein’s government and the ruling party visibly allowed their stranglehold at the top to be reduced and gave the opposition the possibility that if the electoral trend continues, the current president and the USDP might fade away in a few years, as did F.W. De Klerk and the National Party in South Africa during the early 1990s.

But, unlike the Burmese opposition, whose hopes for larger gains lie in the future, the returns for the current administration were immediate, especially as the president gracefully took the ruling party’s crushing defeat in stride.

There was international acclaim, meetings with many more high-profile visitors and distinctly positive nods from potential investors and international financial institutions.

Yet, for this to be more than just a symbol, there is need for substantive progress on the country’s future political and economic direction, in the medium as well as in the long term.

Although politics over time should not be merely about personalities, left unresolved is whether Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, should her party win, be legally able to assume the post of president (the current constitution blocks anybody who is or was married to a foreigner, or whose sons or daughters have foreign citizenship).

Not least, there remain questions about whether the Constitution is to be revised to diminish the size of the guaranteed military bloc and, importantly, whether the document can be altered to accommodate ethnic minority hopes for some nods towards federalism.

However, to get to a desired destination you have to start somewhere, and in 2012, the politicians in Burma most certainly did.

M-ZINE+ is a business weekly available in print in Yangon through Innwa Bookstore and through online subscription at
Last Updated ( Sunday, 30 December 2012 15:24 )  

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