2023 Elections in Myanmar: Will Junta be able to restore democracy?

On Wednesday, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar military ruler, Announced that his regime would hold a “free and fair election”. However it’s not clear when the election will take place, but it’s assumed that he meant this year. 

While observing the  75th anniversary of Myanmar’s independence from British domination. Junta made this remark three after the Second anniversary of the military takeover of the nation.  The military take-over had come hours ahead of the opening day of Parliament on February 1, 2021, after Myanmar’s biggest and most popular political party, National League for Democracy (NLD), swept the 2020 elections.

Restoration of democracy in Myanmar?

If the Myanmar junta is to be believed, it is attempting to reestablish democracy in the nation, which has largely been ruled by the military. In a speech to Mark Myanmar’s 75th anniversary of independence, Junta commander Min Aung Hlaing reportedly acknowledged that the nation would soon have free and fair elections.

Nonetheless, the most recent elections were free and fair, but the elected administration was overthrown, and its members were detained and punished. The Myanmar junta is once more singing a fresh song of democracy as it faces criticism from all across the world. Elections could take place soon in the military-ruled country.

Election in Myanmar: is Junta going to restore democracy?
                                    (source: Deccan Herald)

Icon of the country’s pro-democracy convicted with more charges

Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the NLD and a national symbol of the country’s pro-democracy movement, was sentenced to seven years in prison earlier this month after being found guilty on five additional counts of alleged corruption. Her overall sentence now stands at 33 years. Opponents of the regime have criticized all of the proceedings against her as being a fraud. Suu Kyi, 77, is reportedly being detained in a military camp.

Over the past two years, the junta has imprisoned more than 15,000 political opponents and pro-democracy activists, including her. On Wednesday, 7,000 prisoners—the majority of them convicted criminals—were freed in honour of Independence Day. According to news sources, some political prisoners, including those from the NLD, have been released.

Spring revolution in Myanmar

Battles between pro-democracy forces and the military have kept Myanmar in a state of deadly unrest since the military took control. Many newly elected lawmakers banded together to form the National Unity Government (NUG) days after the coup and began what they dubbed a “spring revolution.”

The People’s Defence Group, the “armed wing” of the NUG made up of several civilian militias, has opposed the military and prevented it from assuming total control.

Election in Myanmar: is Junta going to restore democracy?
                                (Source- NDTV)

According to a report by the International Crisis Group published last month, Myanmar’s anti-military groups have “defied the odds” by raising “potentially hundreds of millions of dollars” from domestic and international sources since February 2021 to finance the conflict. Large areas of territory are allegedly under the authority of the NUG, its allied PDFs, and the dozen or so ethnic armed militias who support the PDFs.

The NUG views the election announcement as a junta effort to sow confusion and split the opposition at this tumultuous time. The junta has already asserted that it communicates with several NLD factions. Although there are NLD members in the NUG, the party has formally stayed aside because it wishes to preserve its unique political identity. The military government may believe that a controlled election will bring its appointees to power and legitimize its authority.

The NUG referred to the junta as a “terrorist organization” that has “no right” to conduct elections. 

Timeline for election

Before that, General Min Aung Hlaing met with the political parties to discuss the electoral system with proportional representation. He has cautioned them as well since he is aware that foreign nations have been meddling in domestic affairs. He expressed his gratitude to India, China, and Thailand for their assistance.

In the local media, he was quoted as claiming that his government closely coordinates with neighbours Bangladesh, China, India, Thailand, and Laos. Ironically, Ms Suu Kyi is still incarcerated at the same time that Myanmar is commemorating its 75th anniversary of gaining independence from the British. Her father, General Aung San, was the one who brought the celebration.

India’s position on Myanmar 

India, which recently took over the G20 presidency, has a 1,643 km long border with Myanmar that runs from the trijunction of Myanmar, China, and India in Arunachal Pradesh to the trijunction of Myanmar, Bangladesh, and India in Mizoram.

The Modi administration has promoted the presidency as India’s chance to leave a legacy of international peace in the world, maybe in the hopes of aiding in the resolution of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. However, it will also be seen how India handles conflicts closer to home.

Delhi’s position was to strike a delicate balance between expressing “deep concern” at the “interruption” of democracy and at some of the brutal measures taken by the junta, and protecting its own “vital interests” — making sure that Myanmar does not serve as a haven for north-east insurgency groups and that the country does not turn into a playground for China.

Where it poses the question “Should India reconsider relations with the junta”?

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