Myanmar Invites Western Nations to Monitor Elections

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?

For more on the Myanmar situation.

3 comments

  1. Regardless of the intent of the Myanmar government, I think that this is something the United States should definitely be a part of. Considering the amount of blood that has been shed in the last few years in order to install democratic governments like this one, I think it would be almost hypocritical not to accept the invitation to monitor the democratic elections. Moreover, as the article states, this type of behavior could help encourage other countries who desire to set up more democratic governments to do so if they know they will have the help of democratic countries like the United States.
    All that being said, the article does raise an important point on the intent of the Myanmar government and its possible implications. Even if the Myanmar government is not seeking help in order to lift the economic sanctions plaguing it, other countries may follow their example solely to remove economic sanctions of their own, which may prove to be problematic.

  2. It’s an interesting argument to impose political and economic sanctions on a nation in order to encourage it to hold more democratic elections, or to encourage it to allow other nations to monitor it’s political process. On it’s face, and in the short term, this tactic seems to be having a positive effect on Myanmar. The sanctions seem to be forcing Myanmar to “pry open the country to the outside world and move toward democracy.” However, I wonder how effective these sanctions will be in the long-term. For instance, if Myanmar is responding to these sanctions by holding more democratic elections, sooner or later, the nations imposing sanctions will be satisfied and sanctions will be lifted. At that point, Myanmar could just as easily revert back to its old ways. I think the democratic standard for Myanmar’s elections should be set quite high, and sanctions should definitely not be lifted if Myanmar’s elections are merely “a step in the right direction” towards free and fair elections. Myanmar needs to show the international community much more.

  3. While I think it’s great that Myanmar would even consider inviting western nations to monitor its elections, I worry that “monitoring” may not actually do much. Is there any recourse if the elections are found by the U.S. to be unfair? Is Myanmar willing to change its ways if the elections are determined to be unfair? I suppose if the U.S. did accept the invitation and subsequently decide that the elections were unfair, if Myanmar did nothing to fix the problem, the U.S. could broadcast that fact to the rest of the world. The rest of the world, then , may refuse to do business with Myanmar and hurt the country economically. Unfortunately, I don’t think that would work and my concern is how Myanmar will handle the situation if its elections are deemed unfair.

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