Freedom in the World
In November 2010, the military junta oversaw Burma’s first parliamentary elections since 1990, thoroughly rigging the process to ensure a sweeping victory for the pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Party. The country’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, refused to contest elections it deemed undemocratic and was formally dissolved by the government in September. However, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the party’s longtime leader, was released in mid-November after years under house arrest. The authorities cancelled voting in several border areas populated by ethnic minorities, where the government has limited control and low-intensity civil conflict continued.
Burma is not an electoral democracy. The military junta has long ruled by decree and controlled all executive, legislative, and judicial powers; suppressed nearly all basic rights; and committed human rights abuses with impunity. The junta carefully rigged the electoral framework surrounding the 2010 national elections, which were neither free nor fair. The process of drafting the 2008 constitution, which the elections put into effect, had proceeded intermittently for 15 years, was closely controlled by the military, and excluded key stakeholders. Although the charter establishes a parliament and a civilian president, it also entrenches military dominance, and allows the military to dissolve the civilian government if it determines that the “disintegration of the Union or national solidarity” is at stake.