Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi waves to supporters before giving a speech during her campaign in her constituency of Kawhmu township outside Yangon, September 21, 2015.
Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters

Five years ago, Myanmar’s ruling junta under General Than Shwe began a cautious but promising move away from a nearly five-decade old military dictatorship, loosening control, opening the country’s economy, and releasing political prisoners, as well as Aung San Suu Kyi, an opposition leader and chairman of the National League for Democracy (NLD), from house arrest. In just a month, on November 8, Myanmar (also called Burma) will hold its first general parliamentary elections since that transition began. The elections will be a critical moment in the country’s modern history—they will test the military government’s readiness for continued democratization and commitment to genuine democracy. The vote will also reveal the NLD’s capacity to limit the political power of the generals who still rule the country.

Overall, Myanmar has changed for the better since political and economic liberalization began in 2011. Even the pessimists in Burma admit

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  • ZOLTAN BARANY is Frank C. Erwin, Jr. Professor of Government at the University of Texas and the author of How Armies Respond to Revolutions and Why (Princeton University Press, 2016).
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