Democracy has become popular among the people of Myanmar, and they can wrest it back

In elections held on November 8 the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi won a grand 83% of available seats. But on the very day the new Myanmar Parliament was to convene for its first session, the army, which since giving up absolute power in 2011 has pursued a “discipline-flourishing democracy”, detained Suu Kyi and other democratically elected leaders of her party, imposed a state of emergency, and handed power to the armed forces’ commander-in-chief General Min Aung Hlaing.

Read also: Democracy hero or military foil? Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi ends up as neither

Actually the generals solidly back the opposition that has been crying election fraud since November 8 itself, although it has not been able to offer up credible evidence for this in the interim. They have now used this fig leaf to mount a coup.

Soldiers keep watch along a blockaded road near Myanmar’s Parliament in Naypyidaw on February 2, 2021. (AFP)

This has of course been met with international condemnation. US President Joe Biden has called it “a direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law.” India has said “the rule of law and the democractic process must be upheld.”

Explained: Myanmar’s return to military rule

It is not, however, clear what kind of international actions can help Myanmar democracy at this point. Rough sanctions would likely only make the country close ranks with China. Democracy’s best hope is actually the more than 80% of vote cast for its spearhead Suu Kyi in November, with more than 70% of eligible voters lining up at the ballot box. It is the people of Myanmar who can really push the generals back on the path of democratisation.



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