It was not a mandate made in heaven.
But the strong Rohingya policy defense by Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor and de facto head of civilian government, brought her closer to Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hliang and his military men.
Their relationship were seen as always uneasy, but workable, with the National League for Democracy (NDL) anchoring on people’s popularity and the military on stability given not yet peaceful armed ethnic factions fighting for independence after more than 60 years.
But in 2020 with the raging Covid-19 pandemic, the relationship grew more tense as NLD MPs which dominated Parliament advocated for and tried to pass legislations to amend the 2008 Constitution, a change designed to reduce the Tatmadaw (military)’s role in Myanmar politics.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s party also campaigned for the Nov 2020 national election on changing the Constitution with an explicit outcry to remove the military from politics.
In the days leading up to the November election, the Senior General cast doubts on its fairness, a statement that was quickly dismissed by the State Counselor. The Senior General’s statement were based on questionable advance voting practices, as well as the postponements of numerous district elections in the troubled Rakhine State.
As NLD won a landslide victory, the USDP, a military-affiliated party repeatedly released statements that cast doubt on the legitimacy of the elections, and their charges were regularly dismissed by the ruling party.
The military also released several statements that cast doubt on the fairness of the election, citing instances of vote fraud. In recent press conferences, the military has cited over 10 million instances of vote fraud and requested the Union Election Commission to release a comprehensive election roll call, a request that was quickly rejected by the government and the Union Election Committee.
The coup today came as a surprise and a disappointment to many, because it was not over policy or political principal quarrels, but naïve political power play. It is a lose-lose for a nation already reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic and economic hardship.