Myanmar Junta Prepares for Name Change as End of Emergency Rule Looms

By The Irrawaddy 3 January 2023

Two years of emergency rule declared by Myanmar’s military after seizing power from an elected civilian government will end on Jan. 31. The expiry of emergency rule prompts the question of whether the military regime will hand power back to acting president U Myint Swe.

Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing will no doubt make moves to maintain the military’s grip on power ahead of its plan for a so-called election in August. According to sources in Naypyitaw, the regime is likely to form a “transition council” in which U Myint Swe will play a role.

The council will be formed this month amid a reshuffle of the regime’s current administrative body, the State Administration Council (SAC), the sources add. The junta chief will lead the council while the military continues to rule the country.

Under the 2008 Constitution, the National Defense and Security Council can declare a state of emergency for one year and renew the order twice for six months each time.

Min Aung Hlaing cited the 2008 Constitution in explaining his coup and is thus responsible for telling the country what will come after emergency rule. There is little doubt he will follow previous military rulers by changing the regime’s name while ensuring the same people in uniform remain in power. The same old tune played by previous regimes is set to be reprised by Min Aung Hlaing.

Meanwhile, the SAC has been preparing for a so-called election planned for August. The regime has replaced ward and village administrators at the grassroots level with members of the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). It is now compiling lists of voters and contacting former election commission members. The USDP has also been reorganized, with generals taking senior positions.

Signs point to the junta rigging the proposed election just as it did in 2010. There is no hope of a free and fair vote under a military regime that has launched a brutal crackdown on the popular uprising against its illegal power seizure. The chairman of the current junta-appointed Union Election Commission (UEC) is also notorious for rigging the 2010 poll with so-called “early voting”. The international outcry that followed was led by then-US President Barack Obama, who condemned the junta for stealing the election.

The UEC has no constitutional mandate to cancel the result of a general election, but the junta-appointed electoral body went ahead and scrapped the 2020 vote after the National League for Democracy won by a landslide. Under the 2008 Constitution and election law, the UEC can handle individual complaints but is not authorized to void the result of an entire election.

The military had already violated the 2008 Constitution by seizing power in February 2021. It also broke its promise of reform and nation-building made before the 2010 election.

These days, Myanmar’s voters are well aware that military rule remains military rule no matter what name it takes.