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Aung San Suu Kyi's Release: Road to "Real' Democracy?

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After the completely rigged and fraudulent elections in Burma in which the Burma military backed Union Solidarity and Development party (USDP) won the majority of seats and now seeks to form a government, will the release of Suu Kyi mark a new beginning as a step towards "real' democracy in Burma?

Suu Kyi's role in the political process is now inevitable as now she is a political icon and her house arrest has made her a supposedly more powerful politician than any other political figure in Burma. Circumstances will now possibly make her more active in politics than ever before. Her political advantages are her image, her power, her international support and her control on the Burmese people. She would probably be able to rebuild her party the (National League for Democracy) NLD very quickly with new members and within a year or two she would possibly win widespread political support from the people and could demand a mandate through free and fair elections. But this is just a possibility.

The 2010 Burmese elections should be globally denounced as fake and fraudulent and the US, United Nations and leaders of the EU should be united in denouncing the elections and should also refuse to acknowledge the election results until fresh elections with the participation of all political party members including Burmese political prisoners are held. The United Nations already suggested that Burmese dictator Than Shwe and his affiliates could be referred to the International Criminal Court. However this was a half-hearted statement and the UN is still in a stage of monitoring the situation in Burma. The 2010 elections and democratization of the military rule could well deter the UN from referring Than Shwe to the ICC. This would mean that in the absence of strict action by the UN, there would be no reference to the ICC and the Burmese junta members would continue to hold power but now as political party members.

The military rule has given way to a sham democracy although Suu Kyi's release could mean that there would soon be more international participation in the political process of Burma. With higher international monitoring and more human rights organizations in the region, it is possible that there would be a change at all levels with more power to Suu Kyi and her party members and gradual weakening of her opposition party members.

Thus there could be two scenarios possible:

1. A gradual move to true democracy with greater participation of democratic and progressive parties in Burma and increased strength to Suu Kyi and her party members. This will gradually oust the pseudo political leaders who are simply the remnants of Burmese military dictatorship. Suu Kyi's release could thus set the stage for a gradual but definite change in Burma despite the fact that she will have to rebuild her party and will have to contest fresh elections soon. She will also have to negotiate the release of the other political prisoners.

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2. The election results and release of Suu Kyi has definitely deterred the UN from taking further action against the dictators and it is not certain that the dictators will be referred to the ICC for war crimes. This means that they would continue to hold power and could potentially try to suppress Suu Kyi once again, although this would lead to gross violations of human rights and would be almost impossible within a democratic political system.

The UN reference of the Burmese military junta to ICC could hasten the possibility of fresh elections in Burma when Aung San Suu Kyi and her party members will be able to contest elections and be a part of the political process. Along with this the international community will have to refuse to acknowledge the rule of the Burmese junta in a political garb and call for fresh elections soon.

Although the release of Suu Kyi is the first step towards true and gradual democratic transition in Burma, the roadmap is not smooth as there are many options now available to Suu Kyi as also to UN, US and the international community. Suu Kyi could bring a gradual change in the democratic process and finally agree on a power sharing deal with the ruling members as happened in countries like Zimbabwe although she could also seek fresh elections with complete power to her party which would obviously suggest a more drastic change although for this to happen the international community including the UN will have to refuse any acknowledgement of the 2010 election results.

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Saberi Roy is a writer and independent analyst and publishes articles on a wide range of subjects including psychology, politics, social issues,trends, religion, sciences and philosophy. Her work is quoted and republished extensively and is also (more...)

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