2023 年 69 巻 3 号 p. 35-54
The changes in Myanmar’s political regime, from the transition to civilian rule in 2011 to the post-coup period after 1st February 2021, can be divided into three stages: first, the transition from one type of authoritarian regime to another; second, the progress of democratization; and finally, the re-authoritarianization through a coup d’état and coercive suppression. However, these transitions have also led to unintended consequences. This paper focuses on the interplay and discrepancies between domestic politics and the international political economy, coincidental timing, political trade-offs, institutional design errors, and miscalculations by involved parties, which are often overlooked in a clearcut and linear understanding of political development. The main points of each section are as follows:
First, the transition to civilian rule was driven by coincidental timing and the impunity of Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military. The formation of the new government in 2011 marked a transition from an autocratic authoritarian regime to a more competitive authoritarian regime. The retirement of State Peace and Development Council Chairman Gen. Than Shwe and the shift to a collectively led leadership were the essence of this transition, which coincided with a change of U.S. policy toward Myanmar, leading to subsequent reforms and improved diplomatic relations. However, this development was facilitated by a trade-off with the state military’s impunity for past human rights abuses and violations of international law.
Second, the advancement of democratization can be largely attributed to inadequate institutional design. The competitive authoritarian regime, constructed during the preceding military rule, lacked sufficient institutional mechanisms necessary for its prolonged sustainability. This deficiency significantly contributed to the electoral triumph of the National League for Democracy in 2015, consequently leading to the establishment of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in 2016. Of particular importance is the fact that the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, which was expected to maintain power while striking a balance between hardliners of Tatmadaw and pro-democracy forces, was weakly organized as a political party. And the ruling government’s inability to “manipulate” the electoral system and operations to win elections also contributed to the regime’s lack of durability. As a result, an unstable power-sharing arrangement was created in which the Tatmadaw, which sought to protect its own gurdianship in the constitutional order, and the democratic forces that pursue further democratization.
Third, while the coup d’état and subsequent crackdown by Tatmadaw have eliminated pro-democracy forces from the top decision-making process on one hand, such actions have been self-undermining the legitimacy and governing capacity. Tatmadaw is planning to return to the competitive authoritarian regime, but this is becoming a mission impossible, because the coincidences that occurred during the former transition in 2011 can no longer be expected, and the aftermath of the coup is not limited to power struggles among elites but has turned into violent social conflicts.
The rapid political transformation in Myanmar from the early 2010s to the present is entering a new phase due to the reactionary actions of the junta. This transformation is irreversible, and if democratization were to resume in the country, it would follow a different path than that of Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership.