The Fragility of Democracy
The world witnessed two unprecedented developments unfold in the United States and Myanmar, one of the world’s oldest and youngest democracies respectively – over the last few months. Interestingly, these two developments shared some uncanny resemblances. Donald Trump refused to accept the presidential election results in November last year, calling it a “fraud” despite a clear defeat to Joe Biden. The drama went on for more than two months until the Capitol Hill violence forced him to accept defeat. His persistent denial for smooth transition of power made many fear a coup attempt. But fortunately a military coup didn’t take place, though it will go down in the history of the US as a dark period. Similarly, Myanmar’s military establishment claimed irregularities in the November 2020 general election which was won by the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. Upset with the poor performance of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party in the elections, General Min Aung Hlaing staged a coup earlier this month and seized power by detaining President Win Myint, Suu Kyi and other democratically elected leaders. The Tatmadaw declared a state of emergency for at least a year in the country, unafraid of possible backfire from the world community. While the commotion in the USA ended after Biden became the 46th president, the chaos in Myanmar is developing. Now, Tatmadaw is threatening to undo the gains achieved towards democracy and derail the country’s democratisation process. What happened in the US and Myanmar has exposed the fragility of democracy and underlined the importance of maintaining and nurturing it as an ideology that respects the mandate of the common people.
The military coup has triggered widespread protests in Myanmar and invited international condemnation, including ones from the United Nations, the US and several other countries. This came despite Suu Kyi losing much international support for her questionable role in the Rohingya crisis. However, condemnations and mounting pressure from the international community have failed to bring any positive outcome till date with the military defending its controversial move, cutting internet and social media access as well as warning action against protesters even as protests intensify. This is not the first time that the country has faced a coup since its independence in 1948. It had happened in 1962, before the military junta refused to accept NLD’s landslide victory in the 1990 general election. History has repeated itself many times in Myanmar, which is a matter of worry. More than other nations, India, which has expressed “deep concern” over the new development, should play a big role in persuading its neighbouring country to uphold the principles of democracy and end the chaos. Delhi has been supporting the process of democratic transition in Myanmar all these years and also have been engaging with its military in view of the long borders it shares with three north-eastern states. It should continue to engage with Myanmar and help the country return to civilian government sooner than later. 50 years of military rule is a very long time.