Ricardo Lagos launches in Myanmar a book on democratic transitions

In the publication, former leaders recount the transition from authoritarian state to a more open, democratic society that their countries went through. Among other Club de Madrid Members participating in this publication, B. J. Habibie shares his thoughts on Indonesia’s transition from a military-dominated government to civilian rule and Spain’s Felipe González reflects on his decision-making in the post-General Franco period.

Mr Lagos himself played a pivotal role in steering his country, Chile, away from its military past. It took patience and perseverance to convince the military, which had solidified its prominent role in governance through a one-sided constitution, to return to the barracks.

Finally, 10 years after Pinochet stepped down, Mr Lagos was able to complete the Chilean transition. “In politics you do what you can,” he said. “And you have to do so with passion, forcefully, so that people see you truly believe in what you are calling for.”

“Many of the challenges now facing Myanmar as it seeks to build a democracy are similar to those faced by other countries in the past, and this volume will provide useful points of comparison”, states Fukuyama at the back cover of the Myanmar edition.

Jorge Valladares, head of mission of International IDEA in Myanmar, agrees that the new book offers countless insights relevant to Myanmar at this important juncture in time. “On the brink of the transfer of power it is important to realize that the transition in Myanmar has a long way to go. Key issues such as civil-military relations, democratization and federalism need years to play out and be fully resolved,” he said. “Patience and the ability to compromise are going to be key.”

To achieve this, the Club de Madrid seeks to support Myanmar’s leaders in their efforts for building peaceful coexistence, national cohesion and democratic transition. The “High Level Support for Effective Dialogue in Myanmar: Towards Democratic Transition and Shared Societies” project aims to facilitate inclusive political dialogue and to provide independent and informed advice to key leaders and decision-makers on selected democratic reforms needed.

The English language edition Democratic Transitions: Conversations with World Leaders was edited by Bitar and Lowenthal and published by John Hopkins University Press. The Myanmar edition, which came about with support from the Club de Madrid, and the EU, through the STEP Democracy project, will be distributed to key players in the Myanmar transition. It will also be available upon request.

Democratic Transitions: Learning from World Leaders is available for download here