The 2015 Myanmar election shot live in Yangon by a diplomat’s spouse
The opportunity to experience democracy in action during the 2015 Myanmar election was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
November 8th 2014 marked the day I proposed to my wife, a diplomat of the State of Israel, and I never thought that we would be celebrating our 1-year proposal-versary in the country of Myanmar (formally Burma) observing the nation’s first free and fair elections in over a quarter of a century. The build-up to this day was marked with a speculative excitement and nervousness I’ve never felt before from the locals, who feared everything from a military crackdown to a delay in voting to a rigging of the elections. As we await the closing of the polls at 4:00pm local time, it seems as though the fear and tension have abated by now as happy voters and thrilled security staff lined up side-by-side since 5:00am to cast their vote and celebrate their leap towards democracy and a truly representative government.
Much has been made in the international media of the regime’s oppression of minority Muslims and disenfranchised citizens, however in Yangon, the nation’s former capital, all were united in a peaceful and beautiful display of camaraderie and hope. As an American born and bred, I can honestly say that the overwhelming feeling of optimism far surpassed anything I felt during Barack Obama’s election campaign back in 2008.
As luck would have it, the polling station we were at in Bahan Township in Yangon was graced with the presence of National League for Democracy chairperson, Nobel Laureate and world-renowned freedom fighter Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as she cast her vote. Daw Suu Kyi’s famous history, for those who don’t know, includes a war hero of a father who negotiated Burma’s independence from the British, General Aung San, and years of house arrest by the military junta who previously led the country for her advocacy for democracy.
Given her status and high profile nature, international press and media attended the polling station and crowded out many of the locals hoping to ‘get that one shot’ of Daw Suu Kyi to blast around the world’s mainstream media and social media. The media horde dissipated as soon as Daw Suu departed and business returned to normal. Happy voters with ink-stained fingers proudly waved them after voting in the 2015 Myanmar election, as election organizers are using this method to prevent anyone from voting more than once. Many families all attended together, helping their parents and grandparents sort through the process and make it to the polling booths. Even the security guards were more than willing to lend a helping hand to those in need.
There is much more to say on the elections, including discussions on the current president U Thein Sein, his USDP party and the constitution of Myanmar, written by the military, which excludes Daw Suu Kyi from holding the title of President, however I’ll leave that to the mainstream media. I will leave this post on one thought – how incredible it is to see real, true democracy in action in a place that has little experience with it in the past. Myanmar is a place with a truly special culture and people, and I’m thrilled to having been able to watch it from the sidelines.