The Military Coup in Myanmar is Undermining Democracy

The country of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is located in Southeast Asia and has a population of around 54 million people. After World War II and up until 1948 the country was under British rule but gained independence and was then ruled by Burmese armed forces from 1962 to 2011. Around 2011, a new government party called the National League for Democracy (NLD) began to lobby for and usher in an era of civilian and democratic rule.

The NLD went on to win a majority of seats in both chambers of the Burmese parliament in a 2015 election, leading to the first non-military president since 1962. The shift from military rule to a free democratic system looked promising after the new parliament convened in early 2016, but since the most recent election in November of 2020, things in Myanmar have taken a turn for the worse.

Myanmar military deems election invalid

In the election on November 8, 2020, the NLD won 396 out of 476 seats in parliament, while the military’s party won only 33. The military, having believed they benefitted from the popular support of Myanmar residents, did not accept the results. A day before the new parliament was scheduled to be seated, the military demanded a rerun of the vote, claiming widespread election fraud. These claims were used to justify their coup d’etat of the democratically elected government officials and installation of military leader Min Aung Hlaing. They have since detained several Myanmar leaders and declared a year-long state of emergency, after which they will hold a new election.

Even though the armed forces in Myanmar and the opposition leaders insist there was widespread election fraud, there is no evidence to support these claims. The 2020 election was observed by both domestic and international election observers, and they did not find any irregularities in the election or counting process. The civilian-appointed Union Election Commission has also rejected claims of fraud, citing the lack of evidence.

The aftermath of the coup

Since the coup, the country of Myanmar has been embroiled in protests and civil resistance in opposition to the military takeover. These protests have taken a peaceful and nonviolent form, including acts of civil disobedience, labor strikes, boycotts, public protests, and formal recognition of the actual election results by citizens and elected officials. The military has responded in many ways including media blackouts, arrests, the spread of political disinformation, and the use of violence against citizens.

The International Commission of Jurists has found that the military of Myanmar violated the country’s constitution since the election irregularities did not justify the declaration of a state of emergency. It has been determined that since the coup violated the constitution, it has directly undermined the democratic processes of the country’s elections. Many countries throughout the world have condemned the military’s actions and called for democracy to be restored and the detained government officials are released.