Myanmar elections 2012: What’s at stake, aidwise?

Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo by: Kjetil Elsebutangen / The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs / CC BY-ND

The international community is all eyes on Myanmar for the country’s by-elections April 1. How the elections will run is likely to determine whether donors will continue to warm up to the Asian country.

Experts don’t expect the elections to change the balance of power in Myanmar. But the elections, they said, are nonetheless historic and important. For one, the opposition party National League for Democracy will participate for the first time since it was banned from taking power after winning the 1990 elections. Aung San Suu Kyi, the party’s leader, is running for a parliamentary seat.

A free, fair and smooth by-election could also attract more donors and investors to Myanmar. It will likely be seen as a sign of Myanmar’s sincerity to continue pursuing pro-democracy reforms.

But two days ahead of the elections, Suu Kyi said the process “will neither be free nor fair because of widespread irregularities,” The Associated Press reports. Myanmar’s democracy icon said opposition candidates have been the target of various intimidation tactics, including vandalism and stone throwing, by “people in official positions.”

Myanmar, however, appears keen to project sincerity: The government has invited monitors from the United States, the European Union and other countries to observe the elections Sunday.

The United States has confirmed it will be sending two observers — one each from the pro-democracy groups National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute. Canada is also set to send two observers.

The United States and the European Union are only among several donors that have responded positively — if cautiously — to initial reforms implemented by Myanmar’s first civilian government. The United States has lifted several sanctions, while the European Union has offered €150 million ($199 million) in new aid. It is also set to open an aid office in Rangoon.

Japan, meanwhile, is considering resuming development loans for Myanmar. The United Kingdom and Denmark have both pledged additional aid, following landmark visits of key officials to the country.

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About the author

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributes to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.