The Current

As Myanmar heads into historic election democracy under threat

Just a few years ago, it was illegal to be caught with so much as an image of the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar, also known as Burma. Now, her party has a shot at winning this weekend's elections. But there remain many concerns about just how "free and fair" voting will be.
Aung Sun Suu Kyi, leader of Myanmar's National League for Democracy Party has been the parliamentary representative of Kawhmu since the 2012 bi-elections and has created new roads and a hospitality training school to increase prosperity in the constituency. (Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)
"People want a happy ending. They want Burma to be a success story."- Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy

This Sunday's election in Myanmar, also know as Burma is an event Aung San Suu Kyi could only have dreamt about -- and agitated for -- during the fifteen years she spent under house arrest. 

Today, the Nobel Peace Laureate leads the opposition National League for Democracy, or NLD. She herself is constitutionally barred from becoming president, because she has relatives who are foreigners. 

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Thursday she would be "above the president" if her party wins a historic election on Nov. 8, defying a constitutional ban on becoming head of state herself. (Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom)

Nearly half a century of military control gave way to something closer to democracy in 2010, when elections were held — though they were not considered free and fair by observers including the U.N.

There are greater hopes, though, for this Sunday's vote -- despite concerns about the religious and ethnic tensions in the lead up to it. 

Alex  Bookbinder is deputy editor of the magazine Frontier Myanmar. He is in Rangoon. Hello.

Of course countries around the region -- and around the world -- will be watching closely to see how free and fair this weekend's vote truly is in Myanmar.  Among those with concerns, is Yanghee Lee.  She is the UN Special Rapporteur to Myanmar... and she joins us now from Seoul, Korea. Hello.

Progress in Myanmar, also known as Burma. is a difficult thing to measure in this case. Because it all depends, on who's doing the measuring.

Jared Genser has been following the situation in Burma for years, as the lawyer for Aung San Suu Kyi and now with his organization Freedom Now, which works to free prisoners of conscience. We reached him in Miami, Florida.

This segment was produced by The Current's Karin Marley.