Long-awaited elections are set for next year, the final destination on Myanmar's "road map" to democracy, but it is far from clear what civilian rule will look like after almost 50 years of army rule.
The junta has promised the vote will be free, fair and inclusive. But with no date set, electoral laws yet to be drafted and opposition politicians still in jail, more questions than answers surround the first elections in the resource-rich Southeast Asian nation in 20 years.
What is not in doubt, analysts say, is that the junta will do whatever it takes to ensure that real control over the former British colony will remain with the military or its proxies.
"Future governments might be civilianised, but they certainly won't be civilian," said David Steinberg, a veteran Myanmar analyst at Georgetown University in Washington.
"The military will still have ultimate control. They believe that in the long term, they are the only institution capable of keeping the country together."
A glance at the new constitution leaves little doubt the military will run the show in the former Burma, and few expect the Burmese people will get much say.
The military has reserved 25 percent of house seats for itself, as well as control over key ministries and appointments. The chief of the armed forces will outrank the elected president and be able to assume power "in times of emergency".
Critics have therefore derided the seven-stage "road map" as a blueprint to legitimise military rule and ensure it retains a strong grip on power.
SANCTIONS TO REMAIN
The West remains sceptical about polls and is unlikely to lift economic sanctions on the country, especially if a "democratic" Myanmar differs little from the army-ruled version.
Some analysts are not completely dismissive.
"It won't be any different to start with, but for the people, the hope is that something good will come out of this process in the years to come," said Win Min, a Harvard-educated Burmese exile and lecturer at Thailand's Payap University.
Steve Vickers, a regional analyst at FTI-International Risk, agreed: "I see some possibility of some gentle progress depending on what happens in this election or post this election. I'm not as gloom and doom as everybody else."
Some analysts even accept that the military's involvement in the democratic process might be necessary in the medium term as it is the only institution in Myanmar with any real political experience.
The opposition parties have played no part in national politics. Civil servants and military officials are often better educated and at least have experience of government. Some provincial military officials have earned a certain respect.
"Their involvement is not entirely a bad thing and the military will be an essential part of the transition of power," said Trevor Wilson, a former Australian ambassador to Myanmar.
"There's probably no choice, but it could be stabilising to have an arrangement like this for the next 10 years or so."
The extent to which opposition parties and ethnic groups will play a part in the process remains murky, with tight controls likely to prevent anyone deemed a threat to the junta from running for office.
Their role will probably be restricted to sitting in the 440-member national assembly, which analysts expect to be dominated by civil servants, junta cronies and retired generals, serving only as a rubber stamp for the army's policies.
The opposition parties have not yet said if they will run -- even if they are allowed to take part. The National League for Democracy (NLD), which has been at the forefront of the pro-democracy struggle in Myanmar under detained Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, is split over whether it will enter the electoral process.
It won the last election in 1990 by a landslide but was denied power by the army. Some of its old guard have been unable to move on from that and still want the junta to recognise its victory.
Insiders say younger members are urging the senior party leadership to enter the election, fearing a boycott would erode the NLD's relevance and credibility.
Many analysts say the NLD, and other opposition parties, are regarded more by the people as alternatives to an oppressive regime than as political heavyweights capable of returning the once thriving country to its former glory.
Western powers and even Myanmar's regional allies have warned that the legitimacy of the elections will be questioned unless Suu Kyi and the estimated 2,100 political prisoners are freed to take part.
Even so, analysts say the polls offer a window of opportunity for Myanmar to embark on reform.
"It would be inappropriate and unreasonable for everyone to dismiss this process completely," added Steinberg, who has studied Myanmar since the military seized power in a 1962 coup.
"Whatever happens, it has to be better than the last 50 years."Reuters