Myanmar's path to a disciplined democratic government is paved with obstacles set by the 2008 Constitution.
If we observe the NLD government’s trajectory; the civilian government, while in power, bore a desire towards maintaining an agreeable relationship with the Junta to slowly bring about the desired changes within the system. The party did not respond much to the military’s actions in the matter of the ethnic conflicts within the country. The Rohingya issue was a major instance in this regard where the NLD government remained silent and declared the issue an internal matter of the nation claiming that no ethnic cleansing or genocide had taken place, while more than a million crossed the borders. While the international spectators have been severely critical of Aung San Suu Kyi who was considered to be the peace laureate and a beacon for human rights, she had little power to manoeuvre the situation though, she could have handled it better.
Scholars studying regime transitions often state that democracy does not only entail electing a new government through holding seamless, fair, and regular elections but it should be equally inclusive.
The challenge for a democratic government during transition is to establish functional institutions of civilian control over the military. These challenges are especially acute and arduous in countries with a strong legacy of militarism and where the military can secure political and institutional leverage for itself during the transition to democracy. Thus, the failure of NLD to amend the Constitution or to successfully reform the General Administration Department (GAD) was evident. In addition, the weakness of democratic leadership and its centralised character further stunted the progress towards a stable democracy. Thus, the concept of democracy in Myanmar, free from military gaze, remains a pipedream.
The Constitution also grants sovereign powers to the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces in emergencies, including the right to exercise control over the branches of the executive, legislature, and judiciary.
Now, Junta is further planning to amend the Political Parties Registration Law to ensure that future election results do not favour any one specific party and landslide victories are unachievable. The amendment will surely affect the pro-democracy parties’ involvement and participation and thus the balance of power will continue to favour the military regime. The Union Election Commission is currently worried that the basic voter demographic activities will not be completed on time due to ongoing clashes between the military forces and different ethnic parties. Thus, holding a free, fair, and timely election seems improbable. As per the 2008 Constitution, the emergency rule can be enforced for one year and can be extended twice for six months each after which elections shall be held. The emergency rule was recently extended for the second time and will come to an end in February 2023, and the election must be ideally held within six months from then. Ironically, the military general is citing political instability as the main reason for delaying elections. While democracy seems to be the need of the hour, according to several scholars studying regime change, transformation only sets in when the military regime itself initiates the shift towards the democratic process. While the National Unity Government (NUG), is functioning as a proper government with its own cabinet, and ministries, where they design policies, funding, etc, without recognition from the outside community, much of its power play dwindle into irrelevance. As can be observed, the current political ill will towards liberal democratic government might set in motion the rule of a disciplined democracy where the conditions of power continue to be slanted towards military power.
The Union Election Commission is currently worried that the basic voter demographic activities will not be completed on time due to ongoing clashes between the military forces and different ethnic parties.
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Sreeparna Banerjee is a Junior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation Kolkata with the Strategic Studies Programme.Read More +