The State Administration Council (SAC) has announced yet another six-month extension of the state of emergency, marking the fifth such extension since it seized control from the elected government on February 1, 2021. This prolonged emergency rule has become routine, reflecting the military’s ongoing struggle against revolutionary groups.
The military junta faces numerous challenges in governing the country, including attacks from various armed groups and sanctions from regional and international actors. For example, pressure from the Chinese government to crack down on cyber scamming activities in the China-Myanmar border Kokang Township which is controlled by the military-backed Chinese mafia, adds to their woes. Therefore, last month, the junta was compelled to hand over their Chinese mafia allies to Beijing following a joint offensive by the Three Brotherhood Alliance in October last year, which wrested control of the area from the military.
However, many observers view that this move of the junta was ostensibly to shield their aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) from scrutiny, as members of the USDP with dual Myanmar and Chinese citizenship were implicated in cyber scams, violating political party and election laws. So, it is obvious that these mafias were handed over to China only to safeguard the USDP’s interests.
In addition, the SAC restructured the Union Election Commission (UEC), replacing its chairman and altering election procedures, including reducing the recruitment window for political members and the number of required party branches across the country, changes requested by the USDP. For instance, the deadline for recruiting political members was shortened from 100,000 to 50,000. In addition, the 166 branches of the party that are authorized to compete for office in the country must be established within 180 days but were reduced to only 110 branches.
However, critics observed that these changes were made only because the USDP ordered the UEC to implement them.
In light of recent developments, the timing of the election remains uncertain. The reason for this is that the conflict continues to rage throughout the whole country. The country is plagued by instability and insecurity. A significant portion of the country is governed by armed resistance, and above all, the military regime is not regarded with confidence. Due to their inability to ensure the scheduling of elections, the regime faces an insurmountable obstacle in refusing to recognize the outcome of the vote and transferring power to the victor.
Again, in his statement on January 31, the acting president, Myint Swe, stated that the state of emergency should be extended beyond six months, given that the SAC’s political transition is proceeding smoothly.
This meant that the military junta would remain in power for a minimum of one more year, and it remains to be noticed whether they will be capable of securing and stabilizing the country and conducting the elections.