The campaign for April elections is in full swing for leading opposition figure, Aung San Suu Kyi. The military-backed government has assured visiting EU officials that the upcoming by-election will be democratic.
For nearly half a century, Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, was in the iron grip of a military dictatorship. But since March of last year, President Thein Sein has been introducing cautious political reforms.
The country's military-backed government on Monday assured visiting EU officials that the upcoming by-election will be democratic.
"We have taken the necessary measures so that the upcoming by-elections will be free, fair and credible," said the speaker of the Lower House of Parliament, Shwe Mann in talks with EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs and German Development Minister Dirk Niebel.
The by-election concerns only 48 seats in parliament and no one doubts that Suu Kyi and the NLD will win many of them.
The "Lady" has not been outside the former capital Yangon in 20 years due to her house arrest. In Myaing, 250 kilometers northwest of the city, she visited an Aids project and spoke to a seemingly endless sea of people.
"It is important to speak to as many people as possible, in order to understand everyone. I need the help of everybody to succeed," she said.
United against adversity
However, in Mandalay, the country's second largest city, Suu Kyi was not able to speak to “everybody.” The authorities reneged on a promise to let her have a rally in the local stadium. She is a force to be reckoned with. The entire opposition has united behind Suu Kyi, including Ko Ko Gyi, a student leader, who was just recently released from prison.
But what will the policies be of the NLD and the Nobel laureate, once they have won seats in parliament?
U Thein Oo is an NLD backer and the one who runs the show behind Suu Kyi. He she will practice her politics with or without the backing of parliament.
"Aung San Suu Kyi has spoken with President Thein Sein, but she does not know whether she can work with the government. Her role is that of an opposition leader, and if need be, she will continue to play that role outside of parliament," notes U Thein Oo.
The 80-year-old sits in an office on the second floor of a cramped NLD party headquarters in Yangon. Important decisions on the future of Myanmar are being made in the tiny, bare room with opaque windows. The headquarters of the country's leading opposition party is, in a way, symbolic for the long road still ahead.
Author: Udo Schmidt/gb
Editor: Sarah Berning