NLD supporters. (Photo: Phyu Zin Poe)

NLD supporters. (Photo: Phyu Zin Poe)

Burma’s historic general election is set for this November 8, and it will be the country’s most important election in decades.

For the first time, the government has invited foreign journalists and thousands of foreign observers. 

And across the country Burmese are hoping the election will chart a new course of positive change.

From Yangon, the former capital of Burma, Phyu Zin Poe has more. 

More than 90 political parties are campaigning for the upcoming election on every road in the city.

One Yangon resident, 44-year-old goods seller, Zaw Win, tells me the election means a lot to him 

"This time, people in Burma can choose a leader that has their best interests in mind," she says,

Lin Lat Aung, 22, is cutting fish for his customers. 

He has been selling fish in this market in central Rangoon since he was young. 

He left school in grade 8 because his family couldn't support him any more and hopes this year’s election might help people like him.

“Now we have to work so hard for suvival, we don't want our next generation to be the same as us, we want to see this truth change,” he says.  

For Lin, it doesn't matter who will get elected, only if they bring about positive benefits for the people.

"We want to see the government who can really change the lives of our people,” he says, “Our country is rich in natural resources but we are among the poorest nations because of bad leaders." 

The upcoming election is expected to be the most competitive election in Burma since the military took over the country in 1962.

Four years ago the government started a path to reform, opening up to the world after decades of isolation. 

And things are different now.

Last Sunday, opposition figure, Aung San Suu Kyi, who is also head of the National League for Democracy party, or NLD, held a huge rally in Yangon.

Thousands of people attended, waving banners and cheering – it was one of the biggest rallies the city has ever seen.

During Burma’s military rule, the famous opposition leader was held under house arrest for 15 years. 

But now she is drumming up support for her party. 

“This election is a huge opportunity for change. Such opportunities are rare in history,” says Suu Kyi, “To seize and use this opportunity is the duty of all citizens. By using this chance correctly, we all will get a chance to found a genuine, democratic federal country.”

Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, for her non-violent struggle for democracy.

Political commentator, Sithu Aung Myint says the opposition figure is in the best position to win a majority and bring the NLD to power.

"We have seen lots of people are supporting her. People have been through under miltary system for about 60 years,” he says, “There is nothing changing their lives. They just hope she can make a difference.” 

But the ruling party created by the military junta, the United Solidarity Development Party, is working around the clock to win in the election. 

The party won the election in 2010 when Suu Kyi was still in detention, but many believed the vote was flawed.  

Tin Naing Thein is the party secretary and a candidate in a Nay Pyi Taw constituency. 

He has high hopes for the party. 

"Our party chairman, the president has been working for change toward democracy. His effort is very gentle and we improve our relations with foriegn countries,” he says.

Burma’s constitution, which was drafted by the military, bars Suu Kyi from becoming president.

Twenty five percent of parliament seats are reserved for military officers. And the constitution can only be amended with the consent of military personnel. 

Opposition supporters complain the constitution is flawed…

But political observer Sithu Aung Myint is still hopeful.

“I put lots of hope on this kind of election because we haven't have it for many years. Although we had one in 1990 but the result wasn't good, so I hope this one is different.” 

Perhaps in Burma, it is a matter of one small step at a time.

 

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