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Politics

Now comes Aung San Suu Kyi's true test of leadership

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National League for Democracy party leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives for Myanmar's first parliament meeting after the Nov. 8 general elections in Naypyitaw on Nov. 16.   © Reuters

No words can quite capture the significance of Aung San Suu Kyi's resounding victory in Myanmar's Nov. 8 elections. Despite competing for only three-quarters of the seats in parliament -- as according to the army-drafted constitution a quarter is reserved for the military -- Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party acquired a supermajority in both houses, winning just on 80% of seats in both houses of parliament as of Nov. 17. The incumbent military-supported Union Solidarity and Development Party was decimated, winning a mere 41 seats of those announced by then. This was a vote for "The Lady," as she is widely known, as much as it was a vote against the ruling USDP. Even the bureaucrats and military personnel in Naypyitaw, the main constituencies in the otherwise sparsely populated capital, voted for change by overwhelmingly choosing the NLD.

     Now comes Suu Kyi's true test of leadership. The nation is looking to her to end economic hardship, protect human rights and defend political freedoms -- a tall order given the deep wounds inflicted over six decades of military rule. She has to transition from leader of the opposition to leader of all the people, despite a military-drafted constitution that forbids her from assuming the office of president. She inherits a system in which the military not only remains the most robust institution but also constitutionally retains control over the country's security apparatus and the subnational administrative system. The constitution has been designed to ensure that the military's dark shadow continues to loom over the administration, poised to take over the reins of government if the pace or direction of change is not to its liking.

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