Myanmar’s political history has been dominated by military dictatorships but is currently in the process of shifting towards a democratic government. As can be expected, the nation is facing many obstacles along the way and the transition has been less than smooth. Political parties are still developing and few have been able to articulate consistent views and ideologies. Elections have seen political tactics escalate into violence against opposing candidates and methods such as intimidation have often been used. In an effort to reduce the political unrest during the April elections, Myanmar has invited the United States and European representatives to monitor the elections. In the past Myanmar has invited officials from other nations but this marks the first time Western nations have been invited. Furthermore, the move by Myanmar is intended to demonstrate a shift in the Nation’s leadership in an effort to convince the United States and other nations to lift economic sanctions. The United States has stated that the manner in which the elections are handled will have a definite impact on the lifting of any sanctions.
The invitation to western nations raises an array of interesting issues. The example set by Myanmar could prove helpful in other nations facing similar problems of violence and political intimidation amongst political candidates and parties. Should the intervention and monitoring by outside nations be encouraged by the international community, in an effort help certain nations transition into democratic governmental models? Should sanctions be imposed on politically unstable nations until such monitoring is allowed?
It is particularly interesting that Myanmar has just now invited western nations to monitor elections while other nations have already witnessed the elections. Is this motivated by the desire to have economic sanctions lifted or by a conception that western nations are better positioned to monitor elections? Clearly political violence is intolerable and intervention by other nations should be considered when violence may be reduced, but is reliance on the west hindering innovative thinking and progress of governmental models?
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