Myanmar Will Host Free Elections For The First Time In Decades

A milestone after years of military dictatorship.

This weekend, voters across Myanmar will be able to participate in relatively free elections for the first time in over 25 years in a milestone that could mark the beginning of functional democracy in the country.

The last elections were held in May 1990, when landslide support for the National League for Democracy ended in a military strike and over two decades of violent military junta rule. The National League for Democracy is led by Aung San Suu Kyi, while the incumbent Union Solidarity and Development Party is headed by President Thein Sein.

The winning party will have its work cut out for it. Corruption is rampant, ethnic militias control swathes of the country, and the infrastructure for the foreign investment both parties hope to attract is scarce. And while the government signed a ceasefire with 16 ethnic militias earlier this year, the issue is far from extinguished.

Myanmar has been under military dictatorship since a 1962 coup. In 2011, the country began to open politically and economically in the wake of elections the year prior, even though it was highly criticized by human rights groups for alleged corruption. The new president Thein Sein of the military party set out to extensively reform the government.

Though the National League for Democracy is led by Aung San Suu Kyi, an article in the constitution prohibits her from being elected as president because her late husband and two children are British citizens. Still, Suu Kyi has said if her party wins she will effectively rule the country.