Myanmar had multi-party general elections in 2010 and 2015 in accord with the 2008 Constitution, and the elected bodies governed the country for ten years until 2020. Senior General Min Aung Hlaing orchestrated a coup by overthrowing the election results of the winning party NLD in February 2021. On August 1 the coup leader formed a care-taker government and named himself the Prime Minister. Tracing back the coup history of the Myanmar military, the same pattern is noticed: waging a coup, forming a council and then a care-taker government, developing a new constitution, forming a military-back political party, holding an election in 2 years, rejecting election results and staging another coup if any other party wins and eventually grabbing the power in the hands of military. It means that keep holding the power is a military tradition and a major task of Commanders-in-Chief in succession.
Scholars pointed out Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has started to day-dream of becoming a president since he was persuaded by U Thein Sein, U Soe Thein, and U Aung Mins’ group who wanted another victory in the following elections after a split story inside the USDP between themselves and Thura U Shwe Mann before the 2015 elections. He became Commander-in-Chief as a General and self-promoted as Vice-Senior General in 2012 and Senior General in 2013 and ordered about fifty very high-ranking military personnel including Generals and Lieutenant-Generals to retire from the military to become the electoral candidates of the USDP. However, they failed to organize U Tin Aye, the then Chairman of the Union Election Commission and were defeated by the NLD in a fair competition. General Ne Win had become Commander-in-Chief at around 40 and staged a coup at the age of 52. When he handed the position of CIC over to General San Yu, he was 62. The Revolutionary Council released the Order No. 18/73 in 1973 and extended the retirement age of gazetted military personnel unlimited. When General Than Shwe took over Senior General Saw Maung, he was 59 and self-promoted as Senior General in 1993. Then he served as Head of State and CIC until 2011. When General Min Aung Hlaing succeeded as CIC in 2011, he was 55 and self-promoted as Senior General at 57. The retirement age of Commander-in-Chief and Vice Commander-in-Chief was extended up to 65 in 2014 by the Defense Council Order No. 4/2014. Then Lieutenant-General Mya Tun Oo said the Order No. 4/2014 superseded the Order No. 18/73 to be compatible with democratic practices. According to the Civil Service Law, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing should be retired at the age of 60, but he could extend as CIC until 65 by that Order. In January 2016 the Defense Council Order No. 1/2016 was again released but it was dedicated to other gazetted military personnel up to Generals. The NLD has gradually gained a greater power of influence in a political setting created by the military on the one hand, and for Senior General Min Aung Hlaing as CIC who was due to retire in 2021, the tasks of the military to maintain a grasp on political power and keep up a significant role in Myanmar politics have become two sides of the same coin, on the other.
The two predecessor coup leaders to Senior General Min Aung Hlaing were U Ne Win who ruled for 26 years from 1962 to 1988, and U Than Shwe for 19 years from 1992 to 2011. Both of them still pulled the strings from behind the stage in politics to a certain period of time even after their retirement. Senior General Min Aung Hlaing wanted to follow their footsteps and top-brass military personnel who wanted to stop the NLD’s political influence supported his plan. Just before the coup, on January 27 2021 Senior General Min Aung Hlaing discoursed “when people fail to abide by the constitution, it’s to be revoked and new governments that came in office did so to 1947 and 1974 Constitutions as they wanted to change one political system from another.” Later he explained it was a misunderstanding of what he had said, but when he orchestrated the coup, he said it was by the 2008 Constitution. On October 9 2021 the SAC met with political parties on the topic of Peace Process, Agenda No. 4 of their five-point road map, and there, Lieutenant-General Win Shein introduced the proportional representation system (PR) with analysis and research findings of the military. A proposal on PR system was first submitted to the Hluttaw on September 18 2014 by the 24-membered Review Commission on a Compatible Electoral System in Myanmar, and the Constitutional Court replied the PR system was not compatible with the 2008 Constitution. Although the USDP tried to gain a better legitimacy and build a relation with the western community during the 2010 Hluttaw term, a landslide victory of the NLD in the 2012 by-elections hiked their worries and therefore, they submitted the proposal to the Hluttaw.
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