After the coup, the military is bending the constitution to suit itself. In doing so, it creates a pretext to overthrow Aung San Suu Kyi and exclude her from elections.
Soldiers wait to be deployed in Yangon on February 15 Photo: Stringer/rts
"Possible election fraud!" And, "Millions of errors on the voter lists!" With these accusations after the parliamentary elections of November 8, 2020, the military have now justified their coup. They claim that the same names appeared several times on the lists. They also claim that the numbers of voters’ identity cards were repeated. However, the army provided no evidence for this claim. The election commission rejected the allegations.
Myanmar’s election system is not perfect, but it is capable of preventing fraud on a large scale. On Election Day, thousands of schoolteachers checked votes at polling stations. To cheat at the polls, a person would have had to travel from one constituency to another, even though the government had restricted freedom of movement.
Also, a cheater would have had to get the non-washable marking ink off his finger and then bypass the checks of the staff:in the polling stations.
However, the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) enjoyed its official advantage over the other parties during the election campaign. It also circumvented campaign finance rules under the guise of individual donors. And NLD candidates took the opportunity to pose as aides to government covid aid programs, which benefited them in the public eye.
President Arrested, His Vice Then Legalizes Coup
Another unpleasant truth: The official election commission (UEC) was close to the NLD and violated some democratic rules: For example, it initially blocked a group of election observers, only to admit them after all – too late to ensure extensive monitoring.
Only after illegal arrests was it possible to declare the coup constitutional.
19. 7. 1947: Assassination of General Aung San, leader of the independence movement and father of Aung San Suu Kyi
4. 1. 1948: Independence of Burma (English: Burma) from Great Britain
March 1948: Karen and communists begin uprising
2. 3. 1962: Military coup under Ne Win, later massacre of students. Start of "independent road to socialism". Nationalization of companies, expulsion of Burmese of Indian origin, war against ethnic minorities, and self-isolation of the country
March 1988: Mass protests begin fueled by economic crisis
July/August 1988: Resignation of dictator Ne Win, brutal military operations against protests
18. 9. 1988: Military coup with about 5,000 dead. Turning away from socialism, military renames the country Myanmar.
27. 5. 1990: Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) wins elections with nearly 60 percent of the vote and 80 percent of the seats. Military does not relinquish power, however. Thousands of political prisoners, torture and forced labor are common. Aung San Suu Kyi, who receives the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, spends the next 15 years or so in prison or under house arrest. Economic sanctions imposed by Western countries
May 2008: Cyclone Nargis destroys Irrawaddy delta, at least 84,500 dead, hundreds of thousands homeless, junta obstructs international aid but allows referendum to rubber stamp constitution that secures military sovereignty over politics.
10. 11. 2010: Military party USDP wins elections boycotted by NLD, but initiates reforms and releases Aung San Suu Kyi.
8. 2015: NLD clearly wins the first free elections. Aung San Suu Kyi is not allowed to be president under the constitution and becomes de facto head of government.
8. 2020: NLD wins around 80 percent of seats in parliamentary elections under first-past-the-post system; debacle for military-affiliated USDP.
1. 2. 2021: Initially bloodless military coup led by army chief Min Aung Hlaing before planned opening of parliament. Arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint. Mass protests from 2nd.
But the military justified its coup with the vaguely worded Section 417 of the constitution. That allows the commander-in-chief to take full political control if the union or national solidarity "disintegrates" or if Myanmar is threatened because of "attempts to take over the sovereignty of the state by sedition, violence or other wrongful methods of violence."
However, this takeover by the army chief must be ordered by the president. This leads to the question of whether the coup was constitutional, as claimed by the army. Immediately before declaring a state of emergency, the army detained State Councilor and de facto head of government Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and Vice President Henry Van Thio.
This prevented the three NLD politicians from holding office. Only then did the military-appointed Vice President Myint Shwe become the acting head of state. He then swiftly transferred absolute power to Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing.
Military now organizing evidence of election fraud overnight
Soon, junta leader Min Aung Hlaing publicly declared that the investigation of the voter lists had begun and that those responsible for the election fraud would be punished. This does not appear to include an independent investigation.
It looks as if the military is now trying to obtain evidence after the fact to justify its accusations – a scenario that is common in authoritarian states where dictators suppress political opponents.
Many doubt that the so-called voter list investigation will be fair and objective. Some experts even suspect that the military will manufacture new accusations to try Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint in court. For example, Aung San Suu Kyi is already accused of illegally importing radio equipment. And President Win Myint allegedly violated corona rules.
General Min Aung Hlaing, meanwhile, promised elections after a one-year state of emergency and that he would, of course, cede power to the winning party. Unsurprisingly, the alleged crimes of Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint can carry prison sentences of up to three years.
This means that they will be sentenced by judges under the supervision of Min Aung Hlaing, because he has abolished the separation of powers. Then, as people with criminal records, the two will not be allowed to run in the upcoming elections.
No less disturbing are the raids on NLD offices in which police officers confiscated internal documents and hard drives. Although it is still a bit early for this, one could conclude that the NLD should be excluded from the elections altogether.
The Republic of the Union of Myanmar consists of 7 states (ethnic minorities), 7 regions, and the capital city of Naypyidaw, inaugurated in 2005, as the Union Territory.
Population: 57 million
Military: 380,000 (estimated)
Population: 135 Ethnicities: Burmese (68 percent), Shan (9), Karen (7), Rakhine (3.5), Chinese (3), Indian (2)
Religion: Buddhist (88 percent), Christian (6), Muslim (4).
Life expectancy: 69.6 years
Literacy: 75.5 (declining)
GNP per capita: $5,142
Poverty rate: 25.6 percent
Exports: China (36.5 percent), Thailand (21.8), Japan (6.6), Singapore (6.4), India (5.9): gas, timber, fish, rice, clothing, gems
Imports: China (31.4 percent), Singapore (15), Thailand (11.1), Saudi Arabia (7.5): fabrics, petroleum products, fertilizers, machinery, vehicles
For the NLD, this is a repeat of two events from the dark past: In 1990, its election victory was declared null and void by the military. And in the 2010 election, it had to run without its leadership, which was still in prison or under house arrest.
Once again, the military is demonstrating that any civilian politician elected to office must accept the supremacy of the army as the supposed guardian of the 2008 constitution – a constitution that was created in an undemocratic manner.
Many of our authors who are currently reporting on the current political situation in Myanmar are doing so at the risk of their own safety. To protect themselves from repression, some of them remain anonymous. (Editor’s note).