Myanmar army chief’s rhetoric fuels fears of a coup

YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar’s army chief has raised the prospect of scrapping the country’s constitution as fears swirl about a possible coup by the military over electoral fraud concerns.

The army has for weeks alleged widespread voter irregularities in last November’s election, which Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) won in a landslide.

The civilian administration has been in an uneasy power-sharing agreement with the army generals since Myanmar’s first democratic elections in 2015, as dictated by a 2008 junta-authored constitution.

An army spokesman on Tuesday refused to rule out the possibility of the military seizing total power to deal with what he called a political crisis.

And yesterday General Min Aung Hlaing – arguably Myanmar’s most powerful individual – appeared to echo that sentiment in a speech published in the military-run Myawady newspaper.

The amry chief said the 2008 constitution was “the mother law for all laws” and should be respected.

People wearing face shields and masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 queue to vote during the elections outside a polling station in Yangon in this November 8, 2020 file photo. PHOTO: AFP

But he warned that in certain circumstances it could be “necessary to revoke the constitution”.

The comments follow repeated demands by the army for Myanmar’s election commission to release final voter lists from the November polls, a demand that has not been met.

The military said the lists are required to cross-check for irregularities. It alleges there were 8.6 million cases of voter fraud nationwide.

The polls were only the second democratic elections Myanmar has had since emerging in 2011 from a nearly five-decade military dictatorship.

Long a popular figure in Myanmar, Suu Kyi’s run for power in historic 2015 elections was curbed by several constitutional provisions.

One provision barred any citizen married to a foreigner from becoming president.

Suu Kyi, who married a British citizen, sidestepped that rule after the 2015 election win by becoming state counsellor – a de facto leadership role created by her government.

The NLD also then pushed for changes to the constitution in their first term, a process that has made little progress.

The last time the country saw its constitution revoked was in 1962 and 1988 – both when the military seized power and re-instated a junta government.