Why A Coup?

Aung San Suu Kyi, Photo by comuneparma

The news today is filled with news that Myanmar has experienced a military coup. There are some questions which should be addressed by Western nations: Why? Is this a good or bad thing? Why now? What are the expected gains?

While some coups are welcome… strikes against dictators and oppressive regimes, particularly those which are committing atrocities… this one is not. It comes against a widely popular, democratically elected leader. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi (the rough equivalent of Prime Minister) has been detained by military leaders after five years of successful leadership of her country.

The military is alleging widespread election fraud in the December elections, when Suu Kyi’s party won roughly 400 seats of the 476 available in Parliament. That “available” is important… more on that in a moment. The results show that after five years in control, she was able to garner about 80% of the voters’ support. That is an overwhelming statement of confidence in her leadership.

She has not been particularly confrontational toward the country’s military leadership, which maintained control until about a decade ago; in fact, her defense of the military in light of accusations of repressive violence has been one of the rare points of contention between her administration and Western powers.

The military leadership is an omnipresent factor in Myanmar politics because of the way the Constitution – written by the military leaders and ratified by them prior to the transfer to democracy – ensconces their influence. Military members are automatically granted 25% of all Parliamentary seats and the military gets to choose Myanmar’s equivalents to Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the interior. While the Constitution can be amended, any amendments require greater than a 75% majority of the Parliament… in other words, the Constitution cannot be amended without the agreement of military leaders.

The reason for the coup occurring now is because the election has been contested, and the military doesn’t want it ratified. That has been the reason for the fraud allegations and investigations; unfortunately for the military, those investigations have unearthed virtually nothing to help their case.

Still, because of the military’s existing hold on the country, the question becomes what they hope to gain. They can hardly give themselves more authority than they already possess.

The answer seems to be a combination of two factors: nationalism and ego.

Under Suu Kyi’s guidance, Myanmar has been growing as a trade hub in that area of the world. This has resulted in a greater presence of foreign products and visitors, both from Western nations and from China. Conducting this coup is a way for the military to declare itself the defenders of Myanmar’s national identity, even as they risk a sudden and significant decrease in the standard of living for Myanmar’s citizenry.

Then there’s the ego side of things: Suu Kyi’s overwhelming victory demonstrated to the military leadership that their views are not shared by the majority of the country. Simply using math, it’s clear that many of the family members of military personnel voted against the military-backed party members and in favor of Suu Kyi.

The coup is not going to result in any significant gain, and it risks grave losses to the country, particularly if an uprising results. It is a nationalistic tantrum, and it may yet prove to be a bloody, deadly one.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.