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This Sunday, Myanmar will hold its first general election in 25 years. It will be a landmark occasion, potentially bringing the country out of 50-plus years of military dominance. There's a great deal of excitement surrounding the National League for Democracy Party, particularly Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been campaigning on a pro-democracy reform platform. Suu Kyi and her party are expected to win by a large margin. However, even if the LDP does win the popular vote, skeptics are saying it will not guarantee a new era of idealized democracy.
For one thing, the military is likely to remain a major force in Myanmar's government, regardless of the election's outcome. The military holds 25 parliamentary seats. Top security ministers are not appointed by the president, but by high-ranking military officers. The military has held power in Myanmar since 1962, when the democratically elected president was ousted in a coup. There were elections held in 2010, but they largely rejected by the international community.
Current President Thein Sein, a former general, won that election as part of the Union Solidarity and Development Party. Sein is running for reelection and has shifted his platform to appeal to voters who want reform: freeing thousands of political prisoners, expanding the freedom of the press, and implementing free market policies.
There's also concern over disenfranchisement in this election. This year, the government revoked citizenship from some 1 million members of the Rohingya Muslim minority. There are also reports of Muslim candidates being erased from the ballots entirely by election officials.
Today's elections could be a major turning point for Myanmar and its position in the international community. That said, major world powers and human rights groups will all be closely watching.
Will Myanmar's landmark election be free and fair? (aljazeera.com)
"Rights groups and opposition voice concerns after disquiet over process in early overseas voting for historic poll."
The Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (burmacampaign.org.uk)
"Myanmar is a Nation with magnificent historical traditions."
No vote, no candidates: Myanmar's Muslims barred from their own election (theguardian.com)
"Win Mya Mya has given everything for Aung San Suu Kyi and her party - including the use of her left hand."
Myanmar Elections 2015: More Complicated Than Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD Vs. Ruling USDP (forbes.com)
"The Myanmar national elections coming up November 8 are about much more than Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) facing off against the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), although this will be the first time the NLD has a chance pull together a majority in the parliament, or Hluttaw."