Editor's Note: Joshua Kurlantzick is a fellow for Southeast Asia at CFR and author of Charm Offensive: How China's Soft Power Is Transforming the World. This is his Expert Brief, reprinted with permission of the Council on Foreign Relations. He blogs at Asia Unbound.
By Joshua Kurlantzick, CFR.org
This week's by-elections in Myanmar, in which roughly one-tenth of the seats in the national parliament were contested, have been hailed as the most important sign yet that Myanmar's nascent reform process is serious. The elections were marred by reports of voting irregularities; however, none were significant enough to spark immediate dispute on Election Day, which was dominated by candidates from Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy [NLD].
The NLD, which has been the main force for democracy in Myanmar for more than two decades, will now have a seat at the policymaking table for the first time in the country's history. Despite efforts by the military and the current civilian-military government to help the Union Solidarity and Development Party [USDP] win the by-elections (including reported harassment of NLD candidates and supporters, alleged attacks on some NLD backers, and denying the NLD the opportunity to hold rallies at major public sites), the USDP won only a small fraction of the forty-eight seats that were contested. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Joshua Kurlantzick is a fellow for Southeast Asia at CFR and author of Charm Offensive: How China's Soft Power Is Transforming the World. He blogs at Asia Unbound.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will begin a visit to Myanmar [historically known as Burma], the first trip to the country by such a high-level American official in some fifty years. In a previous blog post I outlined several indicators to focus on in examining how quickly and successfully Myanmar's reforms are moving.
Although the United States is not the most important player in Myanmar, compared to regional powers like China and India, the Burmese government clearly is hoping for warmer relations with the United States, for a variety of reasons – strategic balance, a real desire for reform, greater investment, and others. In judging the Secretary of State’s trip, it’s important to consider whether she has achieved the following aims – aims that, if successful, would demonstrate significant American influence in the country: FULL POST
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