The results of Myanmar's elections are yet to be declared but no formal announcement is needed to know who the winner is going to be. The November 7 election excluded the iconic Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), which stood disbanded earlier this year under crooked election laws manufactured by the country's ruling junta. The Nobel laureate had called for a boycott of the elections, probably one reason for the low voter turnout, and elections were not held in parts of the country that are home to its restive ethnic minorities. A quarter of the seats in Parliament are reserved for the military; of the 3,000 candidates contesting the elections, more than two-thirds belonged to parties linked to the military, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, and the National Unity Party. Many of these candidates were in uniform until recently. Pro-democracy opposition parties, including a breakaway faction of the NLD called the National Democratic Force, fielded only a limited number of candidates as they could not afford the high election deposit. Under these circumstances, there was never any doubt about who would call the shots in the new parliament and the 14 regional assemblies for which elections have been held. The State Peace and Development Council — the Orwellian name Myanmar's despotic rulers have given themselves — held the election under a rigged Constitution to present to the world an illusion of transition to democracy.
With the elections now safely out of the way, there is a possibility that the junta may release Ms Suu Kyi when her current term of imprisonment ends on November 13. It is unclear what role she will be allowed to play in the country's political life. There is nothing to suggest that opposition parties will be allowed to function freely in the new set-up. The uncompromising stand taken by Ms Suu Kyi against the junta, especially on the question of participating in the elections, has led to predictions that she will fade into irrelevance as a new Myanmar moves ahead, wooed by a world eager to do business with it. Many countries, including China and India, already engage substantially with the regime. The United States too has found ways to work around its own economic sanctions on Myanmar. Ms Suu Kyi's release may give the generals some more traction with the international community. The challenges she will face now may be more daunting than in the last two decades. But by the sheer virtue of refusing to compromise on her idealism, she is likely to remain a formidable political force in Myanmar as well as a source of inspiration for the forces of democracy the world over.