From Cairo to Yangon, Democracy Flourishes

From Cairo to Yangon, Democracy Flourishes

 This week had a lot of exciting news. First, in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood reversed its earlier decision and decided to field a presidential candidate, Khairat Al-Shater, in a clear confrontational message to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) ruling Egypt since Mubarak’s ouster last year.

In Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi led her party, National League for Democracy (NLD), to win 40 of 45 seats in Parliament, in elections to fill vacant seats. This is very encouraging in light of the similarities between the two countries, Egypt and Myanmar, and the two leaders, Al-Shater and Suu Kyi. Both countries suffered Military rule for decades.

In Egypt, all presidents who held office since the 1952 coup were either officers in the army or had a military background. In Myanmar, a military coup took place in 1962, after which governments have been under direct or indirect control by the military for more than half a century.

Further, in Egypt, autocratic regimes ruled the country for 6 decades, where all election results were known in advance, invariably a sweeping majority for the ruling party. The same happened in Myanmar. It’s needless to mention how both countries did under such dictatorship regimes, as both countries shared similar problems of poverty, underdevelopment and illiteracy.

Comparing the two leaders, we find that while they are not identical, they show many similarities, the most characteristic of which is that both are peaceful freedom fighters. Khairat Al-Shater is a prominent member of the Muslim Brotherhood, the main and most organized opposition group in Egypt standing against military rule for decades. Al-Shater was imprisoned under Nasser in 1968 for his political activity with the student movement.

Moreover, Al-Shater was also imprisoned for 12 years under Mubarak for his strategic and financial role within the Brotherhood; and was just released after the January 25 Revolution. Even while in prison, Al-Shater played an essential role in planning the Brotherhood’s struggle for democracy and freedom in Egypt.

As for Aung San Suu Kyi, she is the daughter of General Aung San, the Myanmar independence hero. She is a pro-democracy campaigner who was kept under house arrest for a total of 15 years by the military junta. She participated in what is called the 8888 uprising where thousands took to the streets to protest against oppression and persecution of the ruling military. She co-founded the NLD, the main opposition party in Myanmar.

Now, Al-Shater is going to run for Egypt’s presidency. If he wins, he will become the first civilian president of Egypt through free elections in its entire modern history. At the same time, Aung San Suu Kyi will become the opposition leader inside the Myanmar parliament. Both events are remarkable turnarounds for pro-democracy and civilian rule movements in both countries and signs of decline of the ruling military era there, something that is absolutely crucial for the future of both countries and both continents.