Analysis: Min Aung Hlaing will maintain the status quo that serves him

Wednesday will mark the two-year anniversary of Myanmar’s military coup and, according to the military-drafted 2008 Constitution, the expiration of the term claimed by the State Administrative Council—the junta led by Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing.

The Constitution’s emergency provisions allow for a military takeover for one year, followed by two extensions, each lasting six months, for a total of two years.

But, following a Tuesday meeting of the National Defence and Security Council (NDSC) in Naypyitaw attended by Min Aung Hlaing, the junta’s term is expected to be prolonged once again.

In an official military statement delivered on Tuesday afternoon via state-owned television broadcasters, Min Aung Hlaing repeated his justification for the coup, citing unfounded allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 general elections in which the ruling National League for Democracy won a landslide victory.

According to the announcement, he explained that the nation continues to be confronted with acts of “terror” perpetrated by the People’s Defence Force, which has formed chapters throughout the country to resist the military coup.

The 10 members of the NDSC—most of whom are currently serving in Min Aung Hlaing’s cabinet—deliberated on whether Myanmar remained in an “extraordinary situation” that they could cite in an attempt to justify military rule. The statement highlighted the so-called efforts of the junta chief to bring stability to the country, including the coup leader’s alleged plans to hold military-controlled general elections later this year. Further details are expected to be released on Wednesday.

According to the 2008 Constitution, the NDSC holds some executive powers, but is structured to give the majority vote to its military representatives. It is speculated that the council will exploit vague terms in the Constitution’s emergency clauses in order to again extend Min Aung Hlaing’s claim to power.

Section 425 of the Constitution states that “if the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services submits the extension of the prescribed duration by giving reasons why he has not been able to accomplish the assigned duties,” the NDSC can “normally permit two extensions of the prescribed duration for a term of six months for each extension.”

Maung Myint—an army lobbyist and senior member of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) who served as deputy foreign minister in ex-dictator Than Shwe’s regime—recently took to social media to question the term “normally” within this clause, pointing to the continued volatility that could allow for further extensions.

Regardless of what is announced on Wednesday, it is expected that Min Aung Hlaing will maintain the status quo that serves him. This could mean continuing his claim to leadership with or without the 2008 Constitution, a charter which he will keep in place as long as it is beneficial to him. When this is determined to no longer be the case, it will likely be revoked.

The military recently published a law which will ensure the dominance of the military-backed USDP in a future legislature. This gives every indication that even if elections are held under the junta, Min Aung Hlaing and his fellow generals will continue to hold the reins.

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