IRI’s Steve Cima Looks at Burma’s Upcoming Elections in the Myanmar Times

Parties need to articulate policies to win votes
Myanmar Times
By Steve Cima

The November 8 election promises to be a landmark in Myanmar’s political transition. While the waters recede from some of the worst flooding the country has seen in decades, political parties have been given 60 days to convince voters that they are worthy of their vote. With 92 political parties submitting candidate nominations for the election, it is shaping up to be the country’s most competitive election in 25 years.

Political parties’ campaigns will have a significant influence on voters’ choices and this influence will ultimately determine which party commands a majority of seats in the next parliament. The campaigns will play a crucial role in affecting what voters know, whether they will vote and, if so, for whom they will cast their ballot. If political parties are to find a pathway to victory they will need to develop campaign strategies that will simultaneously inform voters about the importance of the election, educate about the electoral process, and deliver convincing, issue-based messages that will motivate and persuade those eligible to vote on November 8.

While elections are often important milestones and barometers of a country’s democratic direction, campaigns provide the moments in political life when representatives and constituents interact most directly. Campaigns can galvanise interest in existing concerns or spark interest in new issues. Identifying and bundling interests in society remains one of the critical functions of political parties, no matter where in the world they are located.

Campaigns have the ability to encourage voters to learn more about and exercise choice on the important decisions before them. Combining the long-term interests of political and economic reform while also addressing the immediate bread-and-butter issues remains a challenge faced by many parties in transitional environments.

In Myanmar, this challenge is acute as parties seek to build a collective future. While voters are waiting to hear how each party will improve their daily lives, they also need clear, articulate party policies and platforms to enable them to make choices that will establish the pattern for the path of the country’s political and economic future. These choices will provide a mandate to parties to transform their policies and platforms into legislative priorities and build coalitions to bring these priorities to fruition.

Parties now have a great opportunity in front of them to chart the course for the next five years. This work begins in earnest as they make their case in the coming weeks.

Steve Cima is director for Myanmar at the International Republican Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan organisation committed to advancing freedom and democracy.

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