Myanmar Coup Reflects Military’s Desperation over Election Defeat

BANGKOK — The coup in Myanmar on Monday is believed to be a show of power by the military, which is desperate to demonstrate its control over the nation after being defeated in the November election, disregarding criticism at home and abroad for detaining State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of the government.

■ Claims of election fraud

On Monday morning, the military held a meeting of the National Defense and Security Council. Military leaders including Commander-in-Chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing discussed the administration of the country under a state of emergency, then issued a statement.

The statement claimed the coup was justified by saying there were massive irregularities in voter rolls in last year’s general election. It stressed that a state of emergency was being declared in accordance with the Constitution, in order to overcome a situation in which the election commission had been unable to resolve an issue that was interfering with the stability of the nation.

Since the results of the general election were finalized, the military has been calling for a recount due to alleged fraud, and for the postponement of the opening of parliament, which had been scheduled for Monday.

The National League for Democracy, the largest ruling party led by Suu Kyi, and the election commission had refused to budge, saying the election was held fairly.

The NLD won 80% of the contested seats in the general election, achieving a single-party majority. The military-affiliated opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party suffered a disastrous defeat, winning only 33 seats. It is highly likely that the military thought it was being belittled by the NLD, which won the election by landslide.

There also seemed to be a sense of desperation over the public perception that the military was losing influence.

■ Advantageous by design

The military had been in an overwhelmingly superior position to the NLD government. The Constitution clearly stipulates the military’s political involvement.

The Constitution can be amended with support from over three-quarters of the members of both houses of parliament, but one-quarter of the seats are reserved for the military in both houses, so amendments will not be successful unless there are rebels within the armed forces.

The NLD government had to show a certain amount of consideration to the military during its administration.

Suu Kyi has taken a pro-military stance, refusing to acknowledge its involvement in the persecution of the Rohingya minority Muslim ethnic group. She has maintained this stance in the face of international criticism.

Diplomatic sources have said that the military believes it has been able to control Suu Kyi.

■ Sense of crisis

However, Suu Kyi never accepted the military’s accusations of election fraud. While avoiding confrontation with the military, it is possible that Suu Kyi intended to expand her parliamentary power with the enormous support of the people, and reduce military involvement.

By recognizing anew Suu Kyi’s charisma in last year’s general election, the military seems to have grown concerned about losing control over her and the NLD government in the future. It may have chosen the day scheduled for the opening of the parliament, which would have accelerated preparations for the government’s second term, to reinstate the reality of military control over the state.

Suu Kyi is well known both at home and abroad as a symbol of democratization, and her detention is expected to draw a backlash not only from the international community but also from the people of Myanmar.

Nevertheless, the military deliberately made the move. It is certain that the military will work to weaken the NLD before the next general election, which it has announced it will hold, and administer the nation so as to obtain favorable results.