ミャンマー補選 民主化路線に弾みをつけたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Apr. 5, 2012)
Hopes grow for future of democracy in Myanmar
ミャンマー補選 民主化路線に弾みをつけたい(4月4日付・読売社説)

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was kept under house arrest for about 15 years by Myanmar's military junta, is now set to take public office for the first time.

The opposition National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in Myanmar's parliamentary by-election, which was held a year after the junta ceded power. After winning a lower house seat, NLD leader Suu Kyi said, "We hope this [triumph] will be the beginning of a new era."

The vote appears to mark a major turning point for Myanmar's politics. We hope President Thein Sein will speed up the country's democratization.

The by-election was held to fill vacancies created by the resignation of lawmakers due to such reasons as the promotion to Cabinet posts after they won seats in the 2010 general election. The NLD boycotted the general election and was disqualified as a political party. However, approval of its reregistration as a political party paved the way for it to run candidates in the by-election.

Holding a "free and fair election" was a test of the Myanmar government's commitment to transition to democracy. Although some voting irregularities were reported, the government can be given credit for allowing international observers and completing the vote without confusion.


Small but significant force

Even though the NLD swept to victory in the by-election, its seats in both chambers account for less than 10 percent of the total. Members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, formerly a junta support organization, and unelected lawmakers who were appointed by the military make up 80 percent of the country's legislature.

Despite its small share, NLD's holding of parliamentary seats could become an important step forward in the country's transition to democracy.

In preparation for the 2015 general election, the NLD reportedly intends to demand the government realize reconciliation with ethnic minorities and constitutional amendments, including the elimination of the current quota for members of the parliament appointed by the military. Attention will be directed to how much democratization the government will allow while it keeps the old guard in the military in check.


Rebuilding economy key task

Meanwhile, the NLD will be tested for its ability to propose measures in such areas as economic reforms.

For Myanmar, the poorest among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations members, rebuilding its economy is an urgent task. The country will serve as ASEAN's chair in 2014. It needs to improve ties with the international community further by making progress in its democratization.

The European Union plans to decide whether it will lift sanctions against Myanmar when EU foreign ministers meet late this month. The EU set a free and fair by-election as a key condition for lifting the sanctions. The United States also likely will ease sanctions gradually.

Ahead of its Western counterparts, the Japanese government has extended assistance to Myanmar. It plans to host Myanmar's president in late April, and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda intends to announce the resumption of yen loans to help the country build major infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Japanese companies have high hopes for the business potential of Myanmar as a new investment destination after Thailand and Vietnam. The government should cooperate in Myanmar's efforts to improve the climate for investment and back the country's reforms further.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 4, 2012)
(2012年4月4日01時48分 読売新聞)

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