Is there a way out for the opposition?
It shouldn't be a surprise for the Burmese military juntas exclusion or barring of Aung San Suu Kyi from participation in the forth-coming election, which is due to be held in 2010, following the constitutional referendum targeted in May of this year.
"The Fundamental Principles and Detailed Basic Principles", adopted by the National Convention, under chapter 3, The Head of State, sub-heading Qualifications of the President and Vice-Presidents states, The President of the Union himself, parents, spouse, children and their spouses shall not owe allegiance to a foreign power, shall not be subject of a foreign power or citizen of a foreign country. They shall not be persons entitled to the rights and privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign country. It further stresses in the same section, that The President of the Union shall be well acquainted with affairs of State such as political, administrative, economic and military affairs.
In other words, it is designed to exclude Aung San Suu Kyi for she wont be able to meet the qualifications stated in detailed basic principles by the junta.
It is not a secret that the junta is bent on monopolising the state power by all means and barring Aung San Suu Kyi from the electoral process becomes a necessity. And as an extension, obstructing her National League for Democracy (NLD), Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) and other vocal political parties from participation in the election are definitely in the juntas agenda. For they are considered undesirable, due to the commitment to genuine federalism and are against the military dominated, dictatorial rule. The NLD, together with SNLD and other ethnic political parties, garnered 98 percent of the vote and won a landslide nation-wide election in 1990. The junta-back National Unity Party (NUP) received only 2 percent vote.
From the junta perspective, this suppose to be an ideal solution to get rid of all political opposition for good and install or hand over political decision-making power to Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), which is its brainchild and functions as military-backed thugs to harass the opposition. Also there are indications to transform it to a full fledged political organisation to stand for election in 2010. This scenario would soon unfold, under the rubric of its so-called disciplined and flourishing democracy, which actually could only be termed as a military dominated rule.
This boils down to the point of what could the democratic opposition do to counter this juntas go-it-alone stance, which predictably would be endorsed by countries like China, India and most ASEAN states, perhaps with the exception of Indonesia and the Philippines, which are quite vocal against the juntas stalling tactics, undemocratic stance and heavy-handedness against the population and opposition.
Unfortunately, this junta's orchestral show is the only game in town, where the United Nations could get involve and also exert some influence, if there is ever a chance to change the hard-line attitude of the Burmese junta. The same is also true to the democratic opposition camp and the ethnic political and resistance groups. It goes without saying that it takes two to tango, but the junta is determined as ever to carry it out alone. Its logic is that the main opposition groups were invited to participate in the National Convention (NC), but had thrown away their chances and walked out of the ongoing process. Thus, it is not the juntas fault to have to continue it with available individuals and groups, which readily agree to go along with the junta. Little does it mention or admit to the public that almost all participants of the NC are hand-picked and actually are not allowed to deviate from juntas prescribed road map. With the few exception counter proposals from cease-fire group quarters and some vocal non-Burman ethnic groups, which however were rejected, the juntas draft constitution was programmed to be adopted.
The stage is now set for constitutional referendum in May, which is just three months away and peculiar enough, the public has still not seen the draft. Some Burma watchers reasoned that the junta might not be confident enough to publicise it immediately, for fear of international backlash and public scrutiny. The juntas blue print is known to be fatally flawed, when one goes through its publicised basic principles or guidelines for constitutional drafting.
Against this backdrop, the opposition in general have only two choices: One is to reject the constitutional referendum with no vote or totally boycott the process; and the other would be to demand, preferably through the UN General Secretary's good office and international mediators, for a more favourable political climate. This would include an unconditional release of all political prisoners, nation-wide cease-fire, and lifting of all restrictions imposed on existing political parties. If such an atmosphere could be negotiated, the reviewing of juntas constitutional draft leading to reasonable adjustment or amendment, in all-inclusive and open manners, could become a possibility, which will encompass the peoples aspiration in a wider sense. The draft will then be credible enough, at least, as an acceptable, transitional one and would be ready for referendum.
On Wednesday, the United States national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe urged the ruling junta to "start from scratch." He said, "That is - meaning: the barring of Aung San Suu Kyi from entering the election - hardly the definition of free and fair elections. The junta needs to start from scratch with a real draft constitution that actually passes the laugh test,"
Whether the junta would hold on to its hard-line position against all odds, coupled with such critical view and refuse to accommodate the call for democratic change or make sensible concession according to wish and aspiration of the people is anybodys guess.
The author is the General Secretary of the Shan Democratic Union (SDU) - Editor