February started off with unexpected news: A coup in Myanmar, in the middle of a pandemic, with fairly limited rationale behind it. The military lost the last election, since it generally enjoys little electoral support, but ensured its influence on politics through constitutional provisions such as assigining a quarter of parliamentary seats to the military, regardless of election results. This gives the party a veto to any constitutional changes. Yet, the ruling NLD’s electoral success and popularity seems to have worried
the military enough to cause a direct intervention, showcasing its strength - and willingness to engage in direct action.
The public reaction has been…unkind, to say the least. Despite curfews and massive repression
, hundreds of thousands participated in what looks like the largest protests of this generation. This includes possibly one third
of the public sector going on strike, possibly (you may notice a pattern in my language here) causing major pressure on the military’s capacity to govern. Of course, numbers are heavily contested and reliable reports rare, but it looks like the protests enjoy broad mass support. Furthermore, they seem remarkably organized
despite the crackdown - not surprisingly in a country with major mass movements in the past and a widely popular party which was in government until before the coup.