For the first time in decades, voters in Myanmar—which, until a few years ago, was ruled by a military junta—cast their votes in a nationwide election this weekend. Though final counts are still coming in from the country's more rural areas, early numbers suggest overwhelming support for opposition leader and Nobel Peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
"Her party winning is a big step forward in a long journey toward democracy in Myanmar, and hopefully a big opening economically for a country that's been sleeping and has tremendous resources," said Charles Sennott, head of The GroundTruth Project.
But victory for her party does not necessarily ensure Suu Kyi an easy path to leadership. Under the country's military-drafted constitution, Suu Kyi is forbidden from holding the office of president because she was married to a foreigner and her children hold British citizenship.
"I think the generals fear her, so they've custom-tailored this law," Sennott said.
The direction Myanmar takes now—either toward democracy, or back toward its authoritarian past—may have repercussions throughout Southeast Asia, Sennott said.
"Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, sits between two of the fastest growing economies in the world: China and India," Sennott explained.
"It is a critical and pivotal state if you believe in democracy for those two countries," he continued. "Where is it going to go? Is it going to fall toward China? Is it going to fall toward India? Can democracy flourish there?"
To hear more from Charles Sennott, tune in to Boston Public Radio above.