Assistant Professor of Chinese Kyle David Anderson: Young Voters From Burma Speak Out
This story originally appeared on The Huffington Post.
Aung San Suu Kyi, global icon turned savvy Burmese politician, and her opposition democratic party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), have won a resounding victory in Myanmar.
Will the military gracefully concede defeat, President Thein Sein congratulating his Lady rival on her party’s victory, while decorated soldiers retreat to a handful of comfortable parliamentary sedans guaranteed by the controversial 2008 Constitution? Or, will the Tatmadaw generals back-slide into their belligerent 1990s behavior, once more stalling and rejecting the mandate of the people? Aung Tun’s insightful analysis in The Diplomat of post-election scenarios is enlightening. But, ultimately, none are yet bold (or foolish) enough to hazard firm predictions of what will occur during the transition period between now and March 2016.
What we can claim with utter certainty, however, are the vigilance and euphoria the people of Burma have demonstrated during this process.
Some of the country’s leading young minds, students attending The Pre-Collegiate Program (PCP) in Yangon, participated in the general vote last Sunday (November 8), and share their pride and suspicions of what they experienced first-hand at the polling stations here below.
Future leaders of the nation, these students join millions of others flashing their “purple pinkies” stained by edible ink as signs of both their participation and a solemn pledge to hold their leaders accountable and commit to improving their fledgling democracy.
Voting at Kyimyindine, ZayGyee Qt, Station (1) – Yangon
“Election day is one of the most significant days of my life. It was the first time that I got to vote.
The polling station was just in front of my house. Since early morning, around 5:30 A.M, there were many people in queue, waiting for the poll station to open. The staff at the poll station were not as efficient as they could have been. The process and the paper work took more time than it normally should have.
I had to wait about 3-4 hours in front of the polling station because of the inefficient process. The separation between the polls was not clear; thus, people did not know where to cast their votes, putting papers in the wrong boxes. Those votes got rejected.
I also observed how workers counted the votes after the station closed. I learned that some votes got rejected because of the mismanagement of the poll station staff.
The atmosphere on that day was calm (like the calm before a storm). People were all excited and hopeful about the election, but they still feared that something bad might happen. Except around the NLD’s headquarters, Yangon was extremely quiet. There were few people, few buses, and few cars on the roads, unlike on normal days. Most of the shops were closed, and people were anxious about the election.
Currently, there are still controversies about the advanced votes and the integrity of them. And even though NLD has won by a landslide, the UEC has not announced official results. The announcement is still in process; thus, people are very anxious about it.
I went to the NLD’s headquarters yesterday where people were waiting for official results of the election. I think we can see how significant this election is just by looking at everyone’s faces.
They were were all full of hope and joy. We have long been waiting for this day. I believe this election day will go down is history as the day when we fought for the future of our nation with the little power of our pinky fingers.”
Voting in Lanmadaw Township
“On Sunday, since early in the morning, the voting station was crowded with many people, who were eager to vote. The queue was really long but surprisingly, everyone waited patiently – all the people who came to vote lined up systematically, and from the conversations that I overheard, these people were utterly looking forward to a ‘big’ change ahead.
Around evening, many people gathered in front of the NLD headquarters to wait for the voting results. Even though I was not able to get so close to the headquarters, I spotted an enthusiastic huge crowd with most of them wearing red shirts (red represents the color of NLD) – this, I believe, showed how much people were desperate for change in the country.”
Voting at 165 street Tamwe (KA) district, Tamwe Township
“My grandparents, Uncle and I, all went to the polling station around 9:00 AM.
The place was surprisingly tranquil and organized: there were two lines for waiting, one for the people with voting numbers 1 to 600, and the other for people with voting numbers 600 and above.
We heard that most people in downtown had been queuing since 4:30 AM. I thought our Tamwe township would be crowded. However, we queued for only 20 minutes, all thanks to the management of the people there. The man responsible allowed only 5 people to go into the station at a time. This was done in alternation between the two lines so each queue could proceed without any problems.
People were definitely nervous to vote, especially my grandparents, who didn’t know how to vote. So I assisted them, telling them the instructions before they stamped down on the yellow paper. I also had to tell them that they had to vote three times. They thought they would only have to vote once. The polling station is currently closed and the results have been announced. Everything is back to the way it was before.
I voted thinking mostly about my students that I teach at my community center, and my grandparents.
I thought about their bright little smiles, and the way they bravely and creatively answer my questions. Hopefully all the primary and secondary schools will encourage them in the future, training them to present their ideas without trying to shape them all in the same way, making them believe in becoming something other than just ‘a doctor or an engineer’.
I thought about how my grandparents should be retired by now instead of working because there are no retirement funds provided for them here. But I also know that I am responsible to make these changes happen, one way or another, because I was born a citizen of this generation for our country.”
Voting in Mayangone Township
“Personally, I am not a fan of voting or government, but I voted for my family and loved ones. I hope that the winning party will, at least, bring stability to the country, if not improve it. At least, Aung San Suu Kyi is giving people hope and some form of Love, and I hope people will be willing to change along with the country.”
by Centre College Assistant Professor of Chinese Kyle David Anderson
November 13, 2015
Pictured: Anderson teaching at Centre College (above); a student votes in the elections (right).