Today, The Irrawaddy launches its 2015 election website, with its Burmese companion to also go live in the coming weeks. We’re calling it Burma Votes 2015, and we hope you take that to heart. Not because this election represents everything democracy advocates want it to be; not because your ballot will be the silver bullet that cures all the ills that continue to afflict Burma in this era of political change; and not because casting a ballot is something that can or should be forced on anyone. Suffice it to say, voting is not an act that need be imposed on an electorate which has for decades seen iron-fisted mandates forced upon it.
On election day, we hope “Burma Votes” in droves, because thousands have died for this cause, democracy. Thousands more have done prison time for this cause. And tens of millions more—some born, others not yet—will be impacted by the outcome of an election due in just over 10 weeks’ time.
The upcoming vote faces no shortage of shortcomings. Indeed, The Irrawaddy in recent years has endeavored to bring attention to these flaws, some of which have been remedied but others that are deeply embedded in a constitutional framework and historical context that will require years of hard work and commitment to rectify. It has always been our mission to highlight these democratic deficiencies, and we will continue to do so, on this website and elsewhere.
The truth is, no matter who you vote for on Nov. 8, unelected military officers will, for the foreseeable future, have a quarter of the say in lawmaking and an all-important veto over constitutional reform. They will also determine one of the country’s vice presidents, and could well prove the deciding factor in determining who assumes the presidency next year.
In short: A genuine democracy, Burma is not, and a true exercise in bringing to power a government “by the people, for the people,” the November vote will not be.
In launching this website, we hope to further the dialogue nonetheless, through election day on Nov. 8 and beyond. There are important conversations taking place, and yet to be had, about the Burma that we as a people hope to see—in one year’s time, five years’ time, decades from now even. Consider this website one of many forums in which those discussions will play out.
Please take some time to explore the Burma Votes 2015 website in all its facets. Our Through the Lens photo galleries offer a selection of visuals from the last five years that chart an unexpected, unpredictable and meandering road to where we find ourselves today. In Parties & Regions, we look at the nexus of the more than 90 political parties competing in this year’s election and the 1,171 seats that they are contesting. A For The Record quote reel will keep you abreast of the latest utterances from political stakeholders of all stripes, and in Voter’s Voice you have a chance to add your two cents to the discourse, via weekly online polls and social media.
For many of us, the outcome of the Nov. 8 general election, and the government that forms thereafter, is not the destination that we have fought for decades to reach. Rather it is a waypoint (but no doubt a significant one), on a long journey from dictatorship to democracy.
With this website, today and in the days and months to come, The Irrawaddy hopes to contribute to the ongoing story of where we are as a people and nation, and where we want to be.