The military’s strong intervention and the announcement of the reorganization of the general election have made the political development trend confusing.
February 1 was the day when the third Federal Parliament of Myanmar was held to reshuffle the cabinet and elect new president and speaker of the parliament. However, the surprise operations launched by the Myanmar military in the capital Naypyidaw and the localities in the early morning woke up. In Myanmar politics at the center of the dual power of the NLD government and the army, the attitude of the military must be paid attention to. The NLD’s continuous attempts to weaken the influence of the military have been strongly rebounded by the military.
Military “coup” or legal takeover?
At the core of Myanmar’s change is the escalation of the political forces behind the de facto state senior government, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and the commander-in-chief of the National Defense Forces, Min Aung Lai.
Although Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s social media account issued a statement accusing the military of being a “coup”, the Myanmar military insisted that it respected and defended the 2008 Constitution and would act strictly within the law.
According to the Constitution of Myanmar, in case of emergency in the country, the President can convene a meeting of the Defense and Security Council to transfer power to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. However, if the president does not agree to the transfer of power, the military cannot control all power. Because without the authorization of the president, the military’s insistence on full power means a military coup, and the 2008 Constitution must be repealed.
However, the military in practice detained President Wen Min elected by the NLD, declared that Vice President Min Rui, who had a military background, took the presidency, and then declared a one-year state of emergency in the country according to the constitution, and said that state power had been transferred to the commander-in-chief of the National Defense Forces, Min Aunglai.
Avoid turning actions into legal “coup” and upholding the current constitution, on the one hand, is because specific provisions prevent Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming a leader such as president. On the other hand, the military-supported Gongfa Party is in front of the stage, and the military’s behind-the-scenes control is the path chosen by the Myanmar National Defense Force after careful consideration, and will not be easily overthrown.
The 2008 Constitution grants 25% seats to the military, which has a clear impact on the decisions of various policies. After the NLD came to power, the military created a “democratic image”, actively coordinated its position with the government on non-major issues, and insisted on core affairs. In addition, the important consideration for the military to avoid what the operation is called a “coup” is that there is no domestic and foreign environment for military personnel to govern directly.
Myanmar faces more challenges under internal and external changes.
2021 is a special year for the NLD and the military at Myanmar’s dual power center.
Whether the commander-in-chief of the National Defense Force, Min Aung-lai, who has reached the age of 65, will extend his term again or retire, depends on coordination among Myanmar’s major politicians and high-level military considerations. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has held a term of state senior management position. How to arrange this “higher than the president” state senior management status has become the focus of attention in the political framework after 2021. In addition, with the overwhelming advantage of the 2020 general election, the NLD will further challenge the military’s position of veto power over the constitutional amendment on the basis of the 2019 constitutional amendment.
However, the strong intervention of the military and the announcement of the reorganization of the general election have made the above political development trend confusing. The first problem before the military is that the delicate political balance and trust have been broken, and there is doubt about how long the state of emergency and military intervention can last. The military also needs to prevent and control the epidemic, restore the economy, reshape the already complex distribution of power during the NLD period, deal with the complex relationship between the federal and local, and the people’s demands for political transformation and constitutional amendment.
In addition, the military will face the reality of Biden’s government.
The United States has many challenges in reshaping its impact on Myanmar. On the one hand, the United States passed a series of bills to sanction the Emerald Trade, an important economic source of the Myanmar military. On the other hand, the United States put pressure on the NLD government in the name of the “Rohingya” crisis, especially directly attacking the state senior government Daw Aung San Suu Kyi himself. A series of gross interferences have greatly reduced the favorable impression of the Burmese people, including the NLD political and diplomatic elites.
Under such circumstances, how external factors interact with Myanmar’s domestic variables deserves further attention.