Myanmar’s transition from military rule to democracy is far from complete, and its successes to date remain fragile. Given the chronic inertia and isolation of the previous half-century, there has been remarkable progress since 2011. But more work is needed to consolidate democracy, improve governance and promote stability.
Legislative elections due by the end of 2015 promise to be pivotal for the country’s political development. The elections are likely to be the freest in decades, but the opportunity for constitutional reform ahead of the polls appears to have been missed.
A political compromise between the military-dominated Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) no longer looks feasible before the elections.
Ceasefires with ethnic minorities in recent years have improved the security situation, but a national peace settlement has proven elusive. Armed groups may prefer to await the outcome of the elections rather than negotiate with the current government.
Sectarian rivalry and the legacy of prolonged government neglect are fuelling continued instability in Rakhine state. Domestic and international actors must address the crisis in the state urgently, or risk the emergence of a situation that threatens national unity as well as regional stability.