As I said, Burma is a pretty clear case. Nobel Laureate Aum Sun Suu Kyi was leader of the National League of Democracy, which won democratic elections in 1989 (while she was in jail). The military ignored the elections, and has ruled Burma/Myanmar with an iron fist. She has spent much of her life in home detention.
This summer, protests spearheaded by Buddhist monks began in response to price control changes. The monks are politically active, yet sympathetic figures in much of Southeast Asia. In a style reminiscent of the Tianenmen protests, the scope and size of the protests has grown steadily. The latest manifestation had 20,000 people, and yesterday was permitted to visit Suu Kyi. These don’t look like they’re going to go away soon without stringent (read: bloody) countermeasures from the junta. The junta is somewhat isolated internationally, but still dependent on its neighbors for trade, and tourism is a notable contribution to the economy. Here’s hoping they pack it up.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s falling apart. I mean, it’s always falling apart, but right now more than usual. President Pervez Musharraf is one of the wiliest folks in global government today, but you can only keep so many balls in the air. In 1999, he grabbed control of the country for democratically elected Nawaz Sharif, who fled the country before he could be arrested. Musharraf ha survive about 6 assassination attempts, and has been a okay ally on the fight in Afghanistan. Given how roiling his country is, Musharraf has taken some chances offering some support to efforts in Eastern Afghanistan.
The most recent trouble began when he ticked off the head of the Supreme Court, which has regularly begun ruling against him. Those rulings have legally cleared the way for former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif to return. (Sharif did return, only to be deported within 90 minutes by the regime.) Bhutto keeps prevaricating about an alliance with Musharraf. This has served to rile up their heretofore dormant supporters. This in conjunction with ongoing mosque-based troubles in major cities, and new misbehavior on the part of the tribes of Waziristan (OBL’s last known co-ordinates) are becoming increasingly petulant. There was a suicide attack on the army there yesterday.
Though nobody would be sorry to see the Burmese junta go, I’m not sure about seeing Musharraf leave. I’ve never been thrilled with the concept of “our strongman”, but a democratic election in Pakistan would most likely result in a Islamist government — democratic suicide, if you will. Sharif is not a strong man, Bhutto even weaker (her popularity is deeply rooted in that of her late father, a former prime minister). Would either of them be able to hold off Musharraf’s cronies in the military, and Islamists among the population?
(PS: You will not find President Mahmoud Amahdinejad of Iran in the poll below. Anybody who sees Amhadinejad as anything other than a glorified spokesperson — think the Queen of England — is ignorant of Iranian politics and probably shouldn’t talk about them.)