By the by elections: Fancy going up against Aung San Suu Kyi?

With the two main London mayoral election candidates apparently at level pegging, there’s everything to play for  in the run up to polling day. So too, in the Republican leadership contest in the US in the final leg of that contest. All over the media, there are myriad examples of democracy in action; alive, kicking and biting.

In some cases, though, there seems little reason to pay lip-service to fielding a candidate against a politician who is so sure to win.  

There can’t be many clearer examples of a dead cert, a shoo-in or a one-horse-race as that of next month’s elections in Kawhmu, a rural village, south of Rangoon in Burma.

Imagine the bravery and tenacity of the candidate going up against Aung San Suu Kyi. In fact, you need imagine no longer, as the Independent today featured a profile on the Doctor who has taken up the gauntlet (his tactic seems to be offering free check-ups to voters by way of a sweetener).

Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party, is contesting a massive 47 of the 48 seats in the forthcoming by-elections. It is staggering to think that just a year and a half ago Aung San Suu Kyi was forbidden to vote in the elections, or to leave her house, let alone run as a candidate. And Burma’s bid for the “most improved country” crown, shows no sign of losing momentum, with the announcement today that monitors from the EU and the US are both being invited to scrutinise the elections.

Before we shower the Burmese authorities with praise though, let’s pay heed to Burmese comedian Zarganar’s warning from the recent Secret Policeman’s Ball – where he says there is still some way to go in Burma’s progress towards democracy. Referring to the massive 25% quota of seats automatically reserved for the military, he comically proposes they alot another 25% to Burma’s comedians.

Aung San Suu Kyi is clearly not complacent about her election. She is out on the campaign trail like any other hopeful. She might be able to walk it, but it is important to remember there is nothing so certain as a guaranteed seat and a whopping 25% of her colleagues will not even need to campaign at all. Until that is rectified, any attempt to portray Burma as a free and fair democracy will be the most mirthless of jokes.

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