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Our world in 2015: Myanmar's historic vote
02:11 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Five of CNN’s correspondents gathered recently to discuss how the world changed in 2015 and what may come in the year ahead. Nick Paton Walsh, Nima Elbagir, Ivan Watson, Clarissa Ward and Arwa Damon sat down with videographer Claudia Morales and talked about the stories, issues and people they had covered. See their conversations in a series of videos and catch up on the key stories of our time. Here, Myanmar. Also in the series: ISIS; Russia; the refugee crisis

What is the issue?

Myanmar is undergoing a remarkable transition, with one of the world’s most reviled military juntas voluntarily giving way to a democratic government. This reform process culminated in 2015 in a landmark general election.

For decades, the military ruled the country with an iron fist. Advocates of democracy were routinely thrown in jail and human rights violated. The country lagged behind the rest of world, still relying on things like typewriters, land-line phones and mimeographs.

Five years ago, everything began to change. The government released national icon and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi after decades of on- and off-again house arrest. A nominal civilian government took power and Suu Kyi won a seat in parliament by elections. The world took note, easing sanctions on the country and allowing the once isolated state to rejoin the international community.

What key things happened this year?

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy swept November’s general election, taking more than 77% of the seats up for grabs in parliament. This landslide will give the party the power to pass bills and to elect the country’s president. Such a resounding victory was key for the NLD, because the country’s constitution automatically grants the military control of a quarter of parliament. The NLD needed more than two-thirds of the elected seats for an effective majority.

The election has cemented the power of Aung San Suu Kyi, who will guide Myanmar’s continuing transformation. The daughter of the country’s independence hero, Aung San, she’s truly a beloved figure. Many see her life as a sacrifice for the freedom of Myanmar’s people, because she spent years under house arrest far from her British husband and two sons.

What’s the outlook for 2016?

Myanmar’s new NLD-controlled parliament will convene for the first time at the end of January. It is responsible for electing the country’s new president, but with one big limitation. The current constitution bars the election of Suu Kyi because she has relatives with foreign passports. It’s unclear who the NLD will elect, but it is clear who will call the shots. Before the election, Aung San Suu Kyi said she would be “above the President” if her party won.

The new government faces a country full of optimism, but also significant challenges. More than 15 armed militias still operate in Myanmar. Though progress has been made on human rights, some groups, including the Muslim Rohingya minority, still face persecution.