Prague-based Burma expert says victorious NLD must still do deal with military

Supporters of NLD party cheer as election results are posted outside the NLD headquarters in Yangon, Burma, November 9, 2015, photo: CTK

On Friday, it became clear that Burma’s National League for Democracy, headed by Nobel prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, had secured a parliamentary majority and is heading for a landslide victory that will allow it to select the president. But the election victory has not totally sidelined the former military rulers. Igor Blaževič has just returned to Prague after several years helping the political opposition prepare for power.

Supporters of NLD party cheer as election results are posted outside the NLD headquarters in Yangon,  Burma,  November 9,  2015,  photo: CTK
The election results have been dropping in slowly from Burma, or Myanmar’s, Sunday elections. But on Friday the country’s Election Commission declared that Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD had secured more than half of the seats in the 664-seat parliament.

But to some extent, Aung San Suu Kyi has been here before. Free elections were staged in 1990 but when it was clear her party had won an overwhelming victory the army generals cancelled the results and continued to rule. Igor Blaževič, the co-founder of the Czech One World film festival, has just returned to Prague from Burma, where he was helping NLD party activists prepare for power. I asked him how likely it is that the military can pull off the same stunt again and ignore the election results.

Aung San Suu Kyi,  photo: CTK
“It’s out of the question in the next few months. The military is not now in a position with all the attention and all the international involvement. We are in a very different world now than it was in the 1990s. So it is out of the question that the military will stage a coup in the next few months let’s say.”

But the military still has its hands on many of the levers of power. It is guaranteed 25 percent of the seats in parliament, key ministries such as the interior, borders, and defense and they have already made sure that they control many of the country’s key economic assets. Igor Blaževič says it is now crucial for Aung San Suu Kyi’s victorious party to make sure that the military are really on board as Burma moves towards its first civilian democratic government in more than 50 years.

Igor Blaževič,  photo: archive of Radio Prague
“What is worrying is that if there will be no reasonable pact and deal between the military and the government, the military can continue to sit behind the fortress of the constitution, which protects the ministry’s autonomy basically, and then wait till the government fails. If the military decides to do that there are many, many, ways to destabilize the government through the ongoing civil war, through the communal violence and through other things. So the military can easily destabilize the government and then there is a clause in the constitution that if there is chaos and instability in the country then the military has the constitutional right to take over. So it really depends now on whether there will be a reasonable political deal between the winning NLD and the military.”