Myanmar will be going to the polls on November 8th to decide which political party will get a chance to continue to lead this young democracy. This year has been a challenging time in Myanmar with COVID-19 shutting the country down for already 4 months. The hope that was present just before the 2015 election that ushered in the age of NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi has been diminished significantly. The military still holds control, the crisis with Rohingya happened, conflicts persist in Rakhine, Shan, and Kachin States, and there hasn’t been a clear economic policy for much of the NLD’s tenure. Despite all this the NLD is still poised to keep control of the civilian government with many seats to be taken by ethnic minorities in those states.
As an expat in Myanmar or someone looking in from the outside, what is important about this election.
5 More Years of Suu Kyi
Suu Kyi learned a lot of hard lessons during her first 5 years in office. This should make the next 5 years much better. With some distance behind her on the Rohingya Crisis and solving some current economic woes caused by COVID-19, the economy should bounce back quicker than most of its regional neighbors. When entering office Suu Kyi tried to focus on peace instead of the economy which she found to be a mistake. She will surely be looking at more economic reform as well as education reform. With education reform she will aim to start building Myanmar’s young population for the workforce. There has been criticism recently about the transparency of solar bids and China which should be addressed soon in the new year. The government has made strides in putting more services online, namely company registration and most recently paying taxes. Both are huge in creating ease of doing business and reducing corruption.
Civilian Gov. and Military Partnership
Suu Kyi continues to walk a tightrope of political reform while keeping the military happy. Unlike most countries where the military is controlled by the civilian government, in Myanmar the military is autonomous. The civilian government has to partner more with the Military to have more mutually beneficial goals such as peace. Only peace can ensure the start of equitable development. More partnership with the Military is the only current way forward until there is some constitutional reform. Reforming the constitution may take a few more terms or may never happen. Look for Suu Kyi to continue to engage the Military to keep them close to her to ensure that things will run smoothly. She and her party have a very difficult task in creating peace for ethnic minorities and stemming corruption as she has promised if she cannot negotiate with the military.
Plenty of Opportunities
Though there are persisting issues in Myanmar there are many opportunities that have been untapped. With the NLD most likely continuing to be the ruling democratic party more opportunities will emerge. The emergence of opportunities will continue as the government continues to reform different sectors as well as it’s of services. Many sectors including agriculture and manufacturing have grown under the current government. Myanmar is poised to be a manufacturing and trading hub in the mid-term future. Don’t miss out on these and many other opportunities that will emerge post-election.