Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Opposition Faces Tough Bargaining with Burmese Junta

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Opposition Faces Tough Bargaining with Burmese Junta

Article excerpt

HEADED for a stunning election victory, Burma's newly confident opposition faces tough bargaining with the country's ruling military junta.

A Burmese outpouring against three decades of bare-knuckled military rule has overwhelmed both the government and the opposition in the wake of May 27 elections, say diplomats reached by telephone in the capital, Rangoon. It was Burma's first multiparty poll in 30 years.

As results still come in, the opposition is poised to win a commanding majority in the new national assembly, Western diplomats predict. At press time, the opposition had won 131 of the 142 seats declared.

Although doubts remain that the military is ready to hand over power, the National League for Democracy (NLD), the main opposition party, has political momentum. Still, with many NLD leaders under detention, the military holds the cards that will ensure it a strong say in a future government.

"The NLD will have to accept that the armed forces will have to play some role in the government," says a Western diplomat. "It would be naive to expect them to go back to the barracks and just be an army."

Gen. Saw Maung, head of the government, says the Army will not tolerate political turmoil or threats to national unity.

Until the government declares final results next week, procedures for any democratic transition remain unclear. Government officials say the junta, named the State Law and Order Committee, is committed to transferring power to a civilian government once the new assembly writes a new constitution.

The military government has ruled Burma since pro-democracy demonstrations were repressed in September 1988 and thousands were killed. The junta's political voice has been the National Unity Party, which was humiliated in the election.

Since then, government officials insisted multiparty elections would be held. However, the arrest of opposition leaders and the forced removal of thousands from Rangoon's opposition strongholds raised widespread doubts about the election's fairness and fears that it would be manipulated. …

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