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Local insights on democracy in Myanmar

October 25, 2017 • By Stephanie Lim
Group photo of youth participants at International IDEA' Myanmar Office International Day of Democracy event

Since the landmark election of Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy in 2015, Myanmar has successfully held by-elections in 2017 and is expecting to hold general elections in 2020. Despite these notable achievements, real challenges remain in the country’s ongoing democratic transition and activists continue their efforts to build a more inclusive and democratic society.  

In commemoration of the 10th International Day of Democracy, International IDEA’s Myanmar Office and partner organizations of the EU-funded STEP Democracy Program organized a panel discussion and social media campaign commemorating the growth of democracy in Myanmar. The initiative focused on the democratic transition at a grassroots level, highlighting the achievements and personal experiences of local stakeholders and activists throughout the country.

The panel discussion and Q&A event, “Democracy at the Local Level” gave a platform to voices from government, media, and civil society, to share their insights and perspectives. On the panel were Aung Naign Oo, Deputy Speaker of the Mon State Parliament; Salai Isaac Khen, Minister of Chin State; Sai One Leng Kham, Upper House Member of Parliament (MP); Maran Seng Mai, Editor-in-Chief of the Myikyina News Journal; and Daw Ei Ei Moe, General Secretary of youth activist group, Generation Wave.

Discussion topics included governmental transparency and accountability; techniques for encouraging inclusive decision making; federalism, constitutional reform and the upcoming 2020 elections; and encouraging trust in government and democracy among the general population.

Following the panel discussion, the Q&A session gave over one hundred event participants the opportunity to voice the challenges they had observed first-hand in their communities. One participant mentioned the challenge of language barriers when promoting civic education in remote areas of the country. Another voiced concerns about inadequate physical infrastructure in his community. The event was successful, providing a valuable opportunity for panelists and participants to interact and share meaningful insights on the political and socioeconomic future of their country.

Prior to the event, International IDEA and its partners organized a three-week social media campaign, reaching over 35,000 people.The STEP Democracy Facebook page shared profiles and anecdotes from select local partners, including members of civil society, former student activists, and the Director General of the Union Election Committee. As part of the campaign, Susanna Hla Hla Soe, an MP in the House of Nationalities, stated, “All citizens should keep an eye on political affairs. Instead of arguing that ‘Nothing changes even with the new government’, everybody needs to be actively involved in the democratic transition for a better and smoother democratic transition in Myanmar.”

Continuing the momentum from the event, participants were encouraged to take pictures and videos during the networking reception and share them with captions of their personal experiences of democracy. STEP Democracy and International IDEA will continue to share a selection of these on Facebook.

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About the authors

Stephanie Lim
Communications and Programming Intern For the Myanmar Office
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