Sad to see the opposition coalition in Burma beginning to unravel in the face of sustained negotiating pressure by the ruling Generals. When you negotiate as a team you are always vulnerable to divide and rule tactics, and that is what is happening in Burma.

Burma’s Nobel laureate, San Suu Kyi had called for a boycott of the stage-managed elections organised by the military junta and due to take place next month. However, more than 160 of her supporters have now defied their leader and will contest the election whilst she remains under House arrest in Rangoon.

When you are involved in a team you need to work harder at preparation and internal communication than when you are negotiating on your own, as all members of the team must speak with one voice. Opponents know this and will try to divide and disrupt the team, by isolating stronger members or picking off other, weaker members of the team who are less committed to its cause. It must be almost impossible for San Suu Kyi to keep her team together when she is under house arrest. This makes the battle with the Junta for a democratic deal in Burma much harder to win. Her team is also worn out by the duration of the battle. It’s 20 years since she won her famous landslide victory in the elections of 1990. The result has been ignored ever since. It’s much harder to keep teams united behind a common purpose for a prolonged period of time than for shorter periods of negotiating.

These factors have enabled General Than Shwe to play off cleverly against each other those supporters who want to expose the poll as a fraud and those who want to fight for every vote they can get. The losing line is in sight for the bamboo hat party…