The people of Myanmar (formerly Burma) have suffered decades of military dictatorship, but yesterday they tasted democracy in the first free nationwide election in 25 years.
As polls closed, it became apparent that the National League for Democracy, lead by Aung San Suu Kyi, will win a landslide victory, but there was growing unease that the all-powerful generals may not accept it. Suu Kyi won the last free vote in 1990, but the army ignored the result, consigning her to house arrest before her release in 2010 and the installation of a nominally civilian government. In any event, a legacy of military rule means Suu Kyi, who led the campaign for democracy, cannot become president herself and the army will retain a quarter of parliamentary seats and key ministerial positions. Whatever the outcome, Myanmar is heading into a period of uncertainty so it is important that the international community gives the elections a guarded welcome.
Half a democracy is better than none.