By Aung Din
A variety of outcomes are possible in the wake of Myanmar’s general elections on November 8 and each of them has different potential implications for political jockeying. The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi and the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) are the primary contestants, while ethnic political parties and the military will play a key role in determining who takes leadership positions in the new parliament and government.
A two-stage competition will determine who will be the next president. After a successful nomination from either the lower or the upper house of parliament, or the military, the presidential candidates need to win a total of 332 votes between the two houses, or 67 percent of the total.
The NLD wins a majority. The USDP wins a significant number of seats, but not enough to nominate a vice-presidential candidate in both houses of parliament. In this scenario, the USDP has to rely on the military, which appoints 25 percent of lawmakers in both houses, to nominate one candidate to represent both the USDP and the military.
The NLD has majority control of the lower house and appoints Aung San Suu Kyi as its speaker. But the NLD does not have a majority in the upper house, which means it can nominate only one candidate from the lower house, and the candidate from the upper house will most likely be an ethnic leader. This is because in Myanmar’s current political system, one of the vice-presidential slots is reserved for an ethnic candidate.
In a three-person contest for the presidency, the military nominee wins the presidency. As the president has power to appoint all chief ministers in state and regional governments, all chief ministers will be from the USDP and in some states, from an ethnic party allied with the USDP. However, we will also see the NLD win control of some regional parliaments, possibly in Yangon, Bago, Sagaing, and Magway regions, and ethnic parties’ may control some state parliaments, perhaps in Chin, Mon, or Rakhine states.
The NLD wins a narrow majority. The USDP also wins enough seats to control both houses with the help of an alliance with some ethnic parties and appointed military members of parliament. The lower house will be chaired by a USDP leader and the upper by an ethnic leader whose party is allied with the USDP. The NLD will become the major opposition party in both chambers. A USDP candidate will become the president. As the president has power to appoint all chief ministers in state and regional governments, all chief ministers will be from the USDP and, in some states, from ethnic parties allied with the USDP. However, we will also see the NLD controls some regional parliaments as in Scenario 1.
The NLD wins an outright majority, but is only able to control the lower house. In this scenario, a NLD candidate wins the presidency and Aung San Suu Kyi becomes the speaker of the lower house. The USDP becomes a major opposition party. The NLD president would have the authority to appoint all chief ministers in state and regional governments, so presumably all chief ministers will be from the NLD. However, the USDP would still likely win control of some regional parliaments, possibly in Mandalay, Tanintharyi, and Ayeyarwady regions, Shan, Kachin, Kayin and Kayah states. The ethnic parties would win control of some state parliaments, perhaps in Chin, Mon, and Rakhine states.
The NLD wins an outright majority and is able to control both the lower and upper houses. A NLD member becomes the president, while Aung San Suu Kyi and another NLD leader with an ethnic background become the speakers of the two chambers. The USDP would become a major opposition party. Once again, given a NLD president, all chief ministers will be from the NLD. However, the USDP would still control some regional parliaments, and ethnic parties would control some state parliaments, as outlined in Scenario 3.
Potential Problems after the Elections
The new session of parliament will begin January 31, 2016. Within a few days, elections of the speakers of both chambers will be completed and election of the president will follow. However, the new president and his government will only take office on March 31, when the current government’s term ends.
Myanmar’s budget year runs from April 1 to March 31. Therefore, before the new government takes office, the outgoing government will submit a budget bill for the coming fiscal year to the new parliament in February and the new parliament has to approve it before the budget year ends. That means the new government will have to implement the budget for 2016-17, which was prepared by the previous government.
It is expected that many new representatives in the new parliament will try to scrutinize the budget submitted by the outgoing government, especially defense spending. Huge debates between the military members and newly elected members, mostly from the NLD, can be expected in the first session. Relations between the NLD and the military are expected to be bitter as political jockeying, particularly focused on a NLD attempt to amend the constitution to remove the clauses granting the military 25 percent of the parliamentary seats, will likely resurface.
Mr. Aung Din is a former political prisoner in Burma and currently lives in the United States. He serves as a consultant for Moemaka Multimedia, based in San Francisco, and as an adviser to the Open Myanmar Initiative (OMI), a non-profit organization based in Yangon that promotes the right to information and education. See more information about OMI here.