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article imageOp-Ed: Myanmar prepares for historic vote

By Alessio Fratticcioli     Mar 31, 2012 in World
Rangoon - Myanmar is preparing to go to the polls Sunday in its third election in 50 years. Democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi is running for one of 45 parliamentary seats.
The by-election was called to fill 45 vacancies in a Parliament of more than 600 seats. The Nobel laureate is likely to be elected into a parliament still largely composed of the military and ruling army-backed party.
Elections will not be free and fair, Suu Kyi said Friday at a news conference outside her residence in Yangon, but she is contesting it nonetheless and her party hopes to win as many parliamentary seats as possible, CNN reported.
Suu Kyi said that the irregularities went "beyond what is acceptable for democratic elections," with cases of intimidation, vandalism of campaign materials, deceased listed on the electoral roll and eligible citizens who were missing.
"Still we are determined to go forward because this is what our people want," she added. "We don't at all regret having taking part" because the election campaign had raised political awareness among the population.
According to Irrawaddy, Suu Kyi vowed to make reconciliation in Myanmar a priority should she win a parliamentary seat.
“We have differences of opinion within the government … [but] we are confident that we too can achieve reconciliation despite our record of violence and violation of human rights,” she said.
In the last weeks Suu Kyi has traveled up and down the country, rallying support for her National League for Democracy (NLD), a political party which has been long banned after winning the elections in 1990. Suu Kyi interrupted campaigning recently only because of poor health, Digital Journal reported.
Although only 45 parliamentary seats are up for grabs, Myanmar's political future may well depend on this vote.
Australian National University (ANU) research fellow Nicholas Farrelly wrote on the academic website New Mandala that Suu Kyi's election into the parliament "will legitimise the legislative process and catalyse a number of other changes."
According to Dr. Farrelly, "it is much more dangerous for President Thein Sein if Aung San Suu Kyi fails to win her seat.”
President Thein Sein and the Myanmar regime need Suu Kyi in parliament in order to legitimize the 'new Myanmar' and thus obtain the lift of sanctions, a development which would allow foreign direct investment and aid to pour into the country. This would help the economy and start an 'economic miracle' which in turn would provide the mantle of legitimation for an East Asian 'developmental regime.'
Big changes ahead for Myanmar. The future is about to be written.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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