The country made progress with recent elections, but it has a way to go before it becomes truly democratic.

Democracy is a complicated word. In the context of U.S. foreign policy, it has often been conflated with countries we like, rather than countries that are truly democratic.

People need to be skeptical of the so-called democratic elections that took place Nov. 8 in Myanmar. Although the final results of the elections have given Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy 78 seats in the lower house and 29 out of 33 seats in the upper house, minority groups such as the Karen or Rohingya people were barely even represented on the ballots.

On Nov. 13 the NLD officially secured the “supermajority” of the parliament, which allows the party to elect a president of its choosing. Suu Kyi is barred from becoming president, so there is still no clear idea of who will fill that position.

In an interview with BBC’s Fergal Keane, Suu Kyi explained that while she is unable to fill the presidential position, she will “make all the decisions.” Because of a clause added to the 2010 constitution by the military rulers, no person can become president with children born in a foreign country. Suu Kyi and her husband, who is British, had two sons in England, so she is still ineligible.

Though this election has been touted as the first truly democratic election for Myanmar, there are a lot of issues that make the title of “democratic” problematic. Calling any government a democracy is precarious, because large populations have trouble organizing direct democratic elections. Suu Kyi herself called the elections “largely free,” but admitted that they weren’t necessarily free.

A 36-year-old from Yangon recently cut off his finger in rebellion for not being able to vote for his ethnic minority, the Karen people. Citizens of Burma were required to paint their pinky fingers in a special ink after they voted so they couldn’t vote more than once, the news site Coconuts Yangon reported.

Calling Myanmar’s elections democratic is too much of a conflation. Minority ethnic groups were very underrepresented and even blocked from being on certain ballots. Six parties gained only about eight seats. The disproportionate representation of Muslim minority groups greatly affects how the new government will fulfill what the minorities may need for reform.

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The Nov. 8 elections are a step in the right direction for democracy, but by no means are they a model for other countries to follow. Suu Kyi had many struggles getting to where she is now, and the country still needs many reforms. In the coming weeks, we will see what the new authority does, but one thing Suu Kyi said was that she accepted the discrimination now so that her party could win. Now that the NLD has secured its power, it should be Suu Kyi’s responsibility to encourage and create fairness and equity for all ethnic groups.

Brian Fogel is a freshman studying journalism and a photographer for The Post. Do you think the recent Myanmar elections were democratic? Tweet him @FrianBogel or email him at