Myanmar has no recent experience of a peaceful transfer of political power. Long weighed down by the paranoia of a dictatorial military hierarchy, it is more than 50 years since the government changed hands through a popular vote.
Since it seized power in 1962, Myanmar's armed forces have been calling the political shots. In the past decade, the 2008 constitution, the 2010 general election, the 2012 by-election, and now the historic Nov. 8 vote have all been planned to ensure that military interests can be maintained.
Along the way, there have been uprisings, protests and countless demands for faster democratic reform, with the exasperating political stalemate leading to the impoverishment of millions.
It has only been in the past few years that greater optimism has washed across the country. Rapid economic growth in urban centres, combined with much greater openness to international investors, visitors and advisors, has changed the political equation.
The election to parliament in April 2012 of Aung San Su Kyi and dozens of her National League for Democracy colleagues offered the impetus for much of what has gone right since. Yet it has still taken three frustrating years for the ballot-box showdown between the democracy icon and her long-time opponents from the military machine.
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