Myanmar is the country with the greatest changes in Asia in the last year. Myanmar has a bicameral legislative system with a 440-seat lower, and a 224-seat upper house. The 2008 constitution, written by the former military junta reserves one quarter of the 664 parliamentary seats for army personnel and is filled through appointment by the commander in chief. The president is elected by the legislative chambers. Although 2012 saw immense improvements on the way towards democratic freedom, which resulted in an increase of 1.42 points in â€œfree and fair electionsâ€ score, Myanmar is still a far way from being an actual electoral democracy. The outcome of the last general elections in 2010 was clearly manipulated by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the
official title of the military leadership, by imposing incredibly high fees for candidates and preventing opposition candidates from giving public speeches which allegedly â€œtarnishedâ€ the image of the state and the army. This was the reason for the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) and its prominent leader Aung San Suu Kyi not to contest in these elections. The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the ruling party affiliated with the military, finally took 129 of 168 seats in the upper, and 259 of 330 seats in the lower house respectively. The majority of other seats were won by the Shan National Democracy Party (SNDP), a minority party. In 2011, former SPDC secretary Thein Sein was elected president. However, the following two years saw changes and Thein Sein engaged in a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD, who won a landslide victory in relatively free and fair by-elections in 2012. His administration then lifted press restrictions, legalised public demonstrations, and urged political exiles to return to the country. In the run-up for the 2012 by-elections there were also fewer restrictions on party organisation and mobilisation. Although authorities remain concerned about the destabiliaing potential of public demonstrations, and police still regularly resort to repressive crowd-control tactics, there have been numerous legally registered and non-registered demonstrations in 2012. More and more NGOs provide services, especially in remote minority areas where decade long conflict has taken its toll. However, they still face the occasional threats and harassment.