The NLD Makes its Move
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Monday, October 25, 2021


The NLD Makes its Move



What lies ahead for the party that has led Burma’s democracy movement for more than two decades now that it has refused to register for this year’s election?

The decision by the National League for Democracy (NLD) not to register for this year’s planned general election should come as no surprise. Given the regime’s unjust election laws, which were designed to prevent NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners from participating in the election or even remaining as members of their respective parties, it was perhaps inevitable. But even so, it raises serious concerns about how the party plans to continue its push for democracy in Burma now that its very existence is in jeopardy.

Until a few weeks before the NLD reached its decision on March 29, some senior NLD party leaders were thought to be in favor of taking part in the election. That changed, however, after Suu Kyi, speaking through her lawyer, said that she was personally opposed to participating in the polls under the current circumstances—once again demonstrating her influence in the NLD, as well as her approach to politics, which has always been based more on principles than realpolitik.

The decision predictably met with a mixed reaction. Many Burmese both inside and outside the country expressed disappointment at the move, while many others, including activists and campaign groups in exile, applauded it.

For the NLD itself, it must have been an incredibly painful choice. The party is no stranger to setbacks—most notably when its landslide victory in the last election in 1990 was ignored by the regime—but this is the first time that it has had to face the very real possibility of being outlawed.

Under the new election laws, any political party that does not register for the election will be forced to shut down. This means that the NLD, after more than two decades as the standard bearer of Burma’s democracy movement, could soon be abolished.

It is almost impossible to imagine Burma’s political landscape without the NLD. But the party realized that it was equally unthinkable to abandon those who have long served as its guiding lights. Clearly, the NLD would have become a mere shadow of its former self had it chosen to turn its back on those who have sacrificed the most for the cause of democracy.

“We cannot expel Aung San Suu Kyi and others who are or have been imprisoned under this corrupt and unfair legal system. Without them, our party would be nothing,” Win Tin, one of the co-founders of the NLD, wrote in an editorial published in The Washington Post on Tuesday.

For her part, Suu Kyi apparently decided that the election laws were the last straw. Despite her overtures to the regime last year, including offers to help lift sanctions, the country’s top military leader, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, has grown if anything more vindictive in his attempts to sideline her.

But now that the NLD has made its call, Burmese voters are faced with a dilemma of their own. Without the NLD, the party that won 80 percent of the seats in 1990, who will they cast their ballots for in the 2010 election?

Meanwhile, as the NLD and its supporters struggle with new uncertainties, the regime’s relentless march toward permanent control of Burma’s polity continues unhindered by either domestic opposition or international opprobrium.

Sadly, part of the reason the Burmese generals have been so indifferent to calls for a fair election is that they know they will probably get away with steamrolling over the entire electoral process. Although some governments have expressed “regret” that the election laws forced the NLD to make a decision that will deprive Burma of its most viable alternative to junta-backed proxy parties, this isn’t likely to deter a regime that    has never had to pay a serious price for the countless abuses it has committed against its own citizens.

If the NLD was hoping that its decision would significantly increase outside pressure on the regime, it was probably underestimating the cynicism of international politics. It remains to be seen whether the party ultimately made the right choice, but for now we can only say that the disappearance of the NLD will likely mean diminished interest in Burmese politics. That, at any rate, appears to be the junta’s calculation.

On the other hand, if the NLD, in some other incarnation, is able to revive its role as Burma’s beacon of hope for a democratic future, all is not lost. 

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mg tanasayar Wrote:
From the very beginning, the decisions of Aung San Suu Kyi have been wrong. She is not a politician but a philosopher.
We need a politician leader.

Dr. Myo.THI-HA Wrote:
Good article. A good lesson to learn for NLD.
SPDC junta plays with the critical (if NLD enters the 2010 election) as either Win-> loose or Loose-< win condition.

But NLD quit and said "NO". This situation for SPDC junta is happy to have Win condition for him. SPDC will do the fair election because NLD ousted himself(the good reason given by SPDC after the election is; we did fair one...NLD made it own self decision "No". What is the point NLD is expection for WHAT???)
This case, International community could not do/ complain SPDC for anything...when this election done fairly.
This is the SPDC strategy...

Mangpu Wrote:
I agree with the policy of NLD on what you do and announce for 2010 election. I am a member of ZNC and I participated in the 1990 election in Kalaymyo. I don't agree with their laws for 2010 election. Personally, I deny it. It is unjust laws.

The Junta Military tries to hold on the power forever. There are many examples, the Roman Empire cannot stand forever. They are not powerful like Roman Empire so they cannot hold the authorities forever.

However the most importance one is to unite the people, the Burmese are to be one mind, one hand and one intention. Thanks.

Eric Johnston Wrote:
"Without the NLD ... who will they cast their ballots for in the 2010 election?

The answer: No one. To abstain is a vote of no confidence in the SPDC and its so-called elections. It is a vote of confidence in those parties that are abstaining.

"... all is not lost." Nothing that matters has been lost.

"We had a choice of difficulties" [Gen. Wolfe, 1759]

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