Will the Tatmadaw oblige?

In the aftermath of the National League for Democracy’s overwhelming election victory, will the military accept a transfer of power?

The general election has ended successfully and the international community, including the United States, has congratulated both the government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Important questions remain, though, about what happens next now that the National League for Democracy has secured an absolute majority in the Union parliament. They include whether there will be a smooth transfer of power and what role the Tatmadaw will play during the transitional period.

A widespread concern is whether a transfer of power will take place. It is also a concern of the NLD, as has been acknowledged by its spokesperson, U Win Htein.

There are solid grounds for this concern. The NLD won a landslide in 1990 that was not honoured by the Tatmadaw and the country remained under junta rule for the next 20 years. The general election in 2010 was boycotted by the NLD because it objected to clauses in the 2008 Constitution that it regarded as unfair. The Union Solidarity and Development Party, comprised of former generals, won a landslide and U Thein Sein’s government took office.

Myanmar has never had a government that reflected the will of the people since General Ne Win seized power in 1962. Citizens aged 50 or younger have never experienced a truly civilian government.

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The result of the November 8 election shows that the people no longer want to be ruled by a government composed of the military or former military officers. The Tatmadaw should accept the election outcome and understand that its plan to retain power continuously under the 2008 Constitution drafted by the former military dictatorship has not worked.

The 2008 Constitution ensured that the military retained power by ensuring that unelected members of the Tatmadaw control 25 percent of the seats in parliament. This meant that the Union Solidarity and Development Party, that was created by the Tatmadaw, only needed to win 26 percent of the seats to be able to form a government. It also ensured that the military had control over the appointments of the president, the two vice-presidents and government ministers. The leaders of the Tatmadaw need to accept that the size of the NLD’s election victory means that the military’s carefully-crafted plan for retaining power has not worked.

The failure of the plan has negative consequences for the many talented military officers who left the Tatmadaw to join the USDP and pursue a career in politics. The crushing defeat suffered by the USDP in the election means that they have forfeited their careers in both the Tatmadaw and in the USDP.

The Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has pledged that the military will cooperate with the next government. We can assume that he cannot ignore the election result, as the generals did in 1990.

If Senior General Min Aung Hlaing adheres to his pledge, then the country will achieve national reconciliation, peace and economic development as a result of the Tatmadaw and an NLD government working hand in hand.

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