Burma’s first elections in 20 years will be held on November 7, 2010. The regime announced the election date via the state-run television on Friday, August 13, 2010.
Many speculations have risen over the could-be astrological rationale behind the date of the election. According to the Burmese numerology, number 9 is considered to bring good luck. The fact that November being the 11th month when added to the 7th day equals number 9 is enough to convince many Burmese across the board that the generals are still abiding by the old rules. Than Shwe’s predecessor, Ne Win, was known for his obsession with mysticism and numerology. Ne Win also considered number 9 to be a particularly auspicious number, enough to turn the country’s upside down based on his numerological intuitions. In 1987, he removed from circulation much of the nation’s money supply to introduce new notes in the denominations of 45 and 90 notes – because they are divisible by 9. It drove millions into poverty, wiping out the country’s savings overnight.
So far over 40 political parties will be contending the elections, including the NLD breakaway party, the National Democratic Front. With the announcement of the election date, the party leaders will be hitting the campaign trial almost immediately, to take full advantage of the short period of time left before the big day.
The international community, including much of the Burmese diaspora has come out against the upcoming elections, denouncing the process as a political charade based on the sham constitution of 2008. Many of the election laws created earlier by the Election Commission has met with heavy criticism as being undemocratic and unfair. The laws give great advantage to the regime’s political wing led by Prime Minister , the Union and Solidarity Development Association (USDA), in terms of free reign over campaign strategies, financial backing, and man-power. The other proxy parties of the regime, including many of the ethnic parties, also receive similar favorable treatment from the Election Commission, much to the chagrin of the opposition parties and the international community.
The election has been a highly controversial issue among the Burmese, some of whom consider it as an opening for change, be it little or large, while others take to the notion of “the more things change in Burma, the more they stay the same”. The Burmese population, including the diaspora community, is torn between two bipolar viewpoints with little space for reconciliations. Those, who see it as an opportunity in the midst of political and economic stagnation that have plagued Burma for decades, justify their participation in the election as if they win seats in the parliament, it would lend them a legal voice and a venue through which they can address grievances and frustration of the people in the country. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who believe that the election process is a complete sham, through which the regime is seeking to legitimize and shore up its military power and henceforth undermining the genuine democratic process in the country for years to come.