Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-564cf476b6-wkm24 Total loading time: 0.245 Render date: 2021-06-19T16:15:13.005Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true }

Authoritarian resilience through top-down transformation: making sense of Myanmar's incomplete transition

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 May 2019

Stefano Ruzza
Affiliation:
Department of Cultures, Politics and Society, Università degli Studi di Torino, Torino, Italy
Giuseppe Gabusi
Affiliation:
Department of Cultures, Politics and Society, Università degli Studi di Torino, Torino, Italy
Davide Pellegrino
Affiliation:
Department of Cultures, Politics and Society, Università degli Studi di Torino, Torino, Italy
Corresponding
E-mail address:
Get access

Abstract

Starting from the imperfect nature of Myanmar's democracy, this paper aims to answer two questions. First, can Myanmar's transition be defined as a case of democratization, or is it, rather, a case of authoritarian resilience? To state this differently: is the progress enjoyed by Myanmar's polity the outcome of an ongoing process that is supposed to lead to a fully fledged democracy, or, rather, an attempt to enshrine elements of authoritarian governance under a democratic guise? Second, if the balance leans towards the latter instead of the former, how did authoritarian resilience work in Myanmar? The transition is analysed from a long-term perspective, moving from the 1988 pro-democracy uprising up to the most recent events. Data were collected from available published sources and from three fieldworks conducted by the authors in Myanmar. The paper concludes that Myanmar's transition is better understood as a case of authoritarian resilience than as democratization and highlights three core traits of Myanmar's authoritarian resilience: first, the very top-down nature of the political transformation; second, the incumbents’ ability to set the pace of political reform through the use of repression and political engineering; and third, the divide-and-rule strategy used as a means to keep contestations separated and local.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Società Italiana di Scienza Politica 2019 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.

References

Alamgir, J (2008) Myanmar's foreign trade and its political consequences. Asian Survey 48, 977996.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
ANU Myanmar Research Center (2015) The Meaning of Myanmar's 2015 Elections. Canberra: Australian National University. Available at http://bellschool.anu.edu.au/sites/default/files/uploads/2016-08/2015_myanmar_report_final_2016_03_30.pdf (Accessed 5 June 2018).Google Scholar
Suu Kyi, Aung San (2018) Democratic Transition in Myanmar: Challenges and the Way Forward. The 43rd Singapore Lecture. 21 August 2018. Singapore: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. Available at https://www.iseas.edu.sg/images/43rd-Singapore-Lecture-Speech-by-Aung-San-Suu-Kyi-Final-transcript.pdf (Accessed 30 October 2018).Google Scholar
Barany, Z (2018) Burma: Suu Kyi's Missteps. Journal of Democracy 29, 519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bellamy, AJ and Drummond, C (2012) Southeast Asia: Between non-interference and sovereignty as responsibility. In Knight, A and Egerton, F (eds), The Routledge Handbook of the Responsibility to Protect. Abingdon and New York: Routledge, pp. 245256.Google Scholar
Bellin, E (2012) Reconsidering the Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East: lessons from the Arab Spring. Comparative Politics 44, 127149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bogaards, M (2009) How to classify hybrid regimes? Defective democracy and electoral authoritarianism. Democratization 16, 399423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brenner, D (2015) Ashes of co-optation: from armed group fragmentation to the rebuilding of popular insurgency in Myanmar. Conflict, Security & Development 15, 337358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brenner, D (2017) Authority in rebel groups: identity, recognition and the struggle over legitimacy. Contemporary Politics 23, 408426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cassani, A (2014) Hybrid what? Partial consensus and persistent divergences in the analysis of hybrid regimes. International Political Science Review 35, 542558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cassani, A and Tomini, L (2018) Reversing regimes and concepts: from democratization to autocratization. European Political Science. Online first. 4 May 2018, 116.Google Scholar
Chambers, J and McCarthy, G (2018) Introduction: Myanmar transformed? In Chambers, J, McCarthy, G, Farrelly, N and Chit, Win (eds). Myanmar Transformed? People, Places, Politics. Singapore: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, pp. 320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Charney, MW (2009) A History of Modern Burma. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chung, Y (2017) Manifestation of authoritarian resilience?: evolution of property management in Beijing. Journal of International and Area Studies 24, 85103.Google Scholar
Cribb, R (1998) Burma's entry into ASEAN: background and implications. Asian Perspective 22, 4962.Google Scholar
Crouch, M and Ginsburg, T (2016) Between endurance and change in South-East Asia: the military and constitutional reform in Myanmar and Thailand. Annual Review of Constitution-Building Processes: 2015. Stockholm: Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 67–81.Google Scholar
Dahl, R (1971) Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Diamond, LJ (2000) Is Pakistan the (reverse) wave of the future? Journal of Democracy 11, 91106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Diamond, LJ (2002) Thinking about hybrid regimes. Journal of Democracy 13, 2135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dukalskis, A and Raymond, CD (2018) Failure of authoritarian learning: explaining Burma/Myanmar's electoral system. Democratization 25, 545563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Egreteau, R (2016) Caretaking Democratization: The Military and Political Change in Myanmar. London: Hurst.Google Scholar
Farrelly, N (2015) Beyond electoral authoritarianism in transitional Myanmar. European Journal of East Asian Studies 14, 1531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Farrelly, N (2018) The capital. In Simpson, A, Farrelly, N and Ian, H (eds), Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Myanmar. Abingdon and New York: Routledge, pp. 5563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Freedom House (2016) Freedom House Report: Myanmar. Available at https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2016/myanmar (Accessed 22 May 2018).Google Scholar
Gabusi, G (2015) State, market and social order: Myanmar's political economy challenges. European Journal of East Asian Studies 14, 5275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gabusi, G (2018) Change and continuity: Capacity, co-ordination, and natural resources in Myanmar's periphery. In Chambers, J, McCarthy, G, Farrelly, N and Chit, Win (eds), Myanmar Transformed? People, Places, Politics. Singapore: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, pp. 137160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gandhi, J and Przeworski, A (2006) Cooperation, cooptation, and rebellion under dictatorship. Economics & Politics 18, 126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hess, S (2013) From the Arab spring to the Chinese Winter: the institutional sources of authoritarian vulnerability and resilience in Egypt, Tunisia, and China. International Political Science Review 34, 254272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Heydemann, S and Leenders, R (2011) Authoritarian learning and authoritarian resilience: regime responses to the Arab awakening. Globalization 8, 647653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Holliday, I (2010) Voting and violence in Myanmar: nation building for a transition to democracy. In Dittmer, L (ed.), Burma or Myanmar? The Struggle for National Identity. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing pp. 2349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thant, Htoo (2016) State counsellor bill approved despite military voting boycott. Myanmar Times. 5 April 2016. Available at https://www.mmtimes.com/national-news/19844-military-protests-but-parliament-passes-state-counsellor-bill.html (Accessed 30 October 2018.Google Scholar
Hufbauer, GC, Schott, JJ and Elliott, KA (2007) Economic Sanctions Reconsidered: History and Current Policy. Washington, DC: Institute for International Economics.Google Scholar
Huntington, S (1968) Political Order in Changing Societies. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Huntington, S (1991) The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. Oklahoma City: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
International Crisis Group (ICG) (2012) Myanmar: The Politics of Economic Reform. Asia Report No. 231 (27 July 2012). Available at http://www.crisisgroup.org/~/media/Files/asia/south-east-asia/burma-myanmar/231-myanmar-the-politics-of-economic-reform.pdf (Accessed 5 June 2018).Google Scholar
International Crisis Group (ICG) (2015) The Myanmar elections: results and implications. Crisis Group Asia Briefing No. 147. 9 December 2015.Google Scholar
International Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) (2018) Myanmar. Available at http://www.internal-displacement.org/countries/myanmar (Accessed 30 October 2018).Google Scholar
Jones, L (2014) Explaining Myanmar's regime transition: the periphery is central. Democratization 21, 780802.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Khin Maung, Win (2004) Myanmar Roadmap to Democracy: The Way Forward. Yangon: Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies. Available at http://burmatoday.net/burmatoday2003/2004/02/040218_khinmgwin.htm, accessed 22/05/2018.Google Scholar
Kipgen, N (2016) Democratisation of Myanmar. Abingdon and New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kyaw Yin, Hlaing (2013) The four-eights democratic movement and political repression in Myanmar. In Ganesan, N, and Sung, CK (eds), State Violence in East Asia. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky.Google Scholar
Lee, J (2012) Is Burma turning on China? How Burma's pivot away from its longtime partner debunks the myth of China's diplomatic prowess. The National Interest. 1 February 2012. Available at http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/burma-turning-china-6438 (Accessed 5 June 2018).Google Scholar
Lee Huang, R (2017) Myanmar's Way to democracy and the limits of the 2015 elections. Asian Journal of Political Science 25, 2544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Levitsky, S and Way, LA (2002) The rise of competitive authoritarianism. Journal of Democracy 13, 5165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Levitsky, S and Way, LA (2010) Competitive Authoritarianism: The Emergence and Dynamics of Hybrid Regimes in the Post-Cold War era. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Levitsky, S and Way, LA (2015) The myth of democratic recession. Journal of Democracy 26, 4858.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Linz, JJ and Stepan., A (1978) The Breakdown of Democratic Regimes. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
Linz, JJ and Stepan, A (1996) Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America and Post-Communist Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
Lynch, M (2011) After Egypt: the limits and promise of online challenges to the authoritarian Arab state. Perspectives on Politics 9, 301310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Macdonald, AP (2013) From military rule to electoral authoritarianism: the reconfiguration of power in Myanmar and its future. Asian Affairs: An American Review 40, 2036.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MacFarquhar, N (2010) U.N. doubts fairness of Election in Myanmar. New York Times. 21 October 2010. Available at https://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/22/world/asia/22nations.html (Accessed 22 May 2018).Google Scholar
Myoe, Maung Aung (2018) Partnership in politics: The Tatmadaw and the NLD in Myanmar since 2016. In Chambers, J, McCarthy, G, Farrelly, N and Chit, Win (eds), Myanmar Transformed? People, Places, Politics. Singapore: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, pp. 201229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Meehan, P (2011) Drugs, insurgency and statebuilding in Burma: why the drugs trade is central to Burma's changing political order. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 42, 376404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Meehan, P (2015) Fortifying or fragmenting the state? The political economy of the drug trade in Shan State, Myanmar, 1988–2012. Critical Asian Studies 47, 253282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Morgenbesser, L (2015) In search of stability. European Journal of East Asian Studies 14, 163188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mya, Than (2005) Cooperation with the People's Republic of China and Thailand in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Journal of GMS Development Studies 2, 3754.Google Scholar
Myanmar Times (2016) Transcript: President U Htin Kyaw's inaugural address. 30 March 2016. Available at https://www.mmtimes.com/national-news/19730-transcript-president-u-htin-kyaw-s-inaugural-address.html (Accessed 30 October 2018).Google Scholar
Myat, Thein (2004) Economic Development of Myanmar. Singapore: ISEAS.Google Scholar
Nathan, AJ 2003. Authoritarian resilience. Journal of Democracy 14, 617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
National League for Democracy (NLD) (2015) 2015 Election Manifesto. Available at http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs21/NLD_2015_Election_Manifesto-en.pdf (Accessed 30 October 2018).Google Scholar
O'Donnell, G and Schmitter, PC (1986) Transitions From Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions About Uncertain Democracies. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
Olarn, K (2012) Myanmar confirms sweeping election victory for Suu Kyi's party. CNN. 4 April 2012. Available at https://edition.cnn.com/2012/04/04/world/asia/myanmar-elections/index.html (Accessed 22 May 2018).Google Scholar
President's Office (2018) The full text of the speech delivered by President U Win Myint at the ceremony to take oath of office at Pyidaungsu Hluttaw. 30 March 2018. Available at http://www.president-office.gov.mm/en/?q=briefing-room/speeches-and-remarks/2018/03/31/id-8618 (Accessed 30 October 2018).Google Scholar
Przeworski, A (1991) Democracy and the Market. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ramachandran, S (2012) China–South Asia strategic engagements – 3. Sino–Myanmar relationship: past imperfect, future tense. ISAS Working Paper No. 158. 23 August 2012. Singapore: National University of Singapore.Google Scholar
Ramachandran, S (2016) Chinese influence faces uncertain future in Myanmar. China Brief 16, 1013.Google Scholar
Rieffel, L (2015) Policy options for improving the performance of the state economic enterprise sector in Myanmar. ISEAS Working Paper No. 1. Singapore: National University of Singapore.Google Scholar
Ruzza, S (2015) There are two sides to every COIN: of economic and military means in Myanmar's comprehensive approach to illiberal peacebuilding. European Journal of East Asian Studies 14, 7697.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ruzza, S and Gabusi, G (2018) Myanmar. In Giessmann, HJ and MacGinty, R (eds), The Elgar Companion on Post-Conflict Transition. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 275293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Oo, San San (2016) Fiscal Management Reform in Myanmar. Policy Research Institute, Ministry of Finance, Japan. Available at https://www.mof.go.jp/pri/international_exchange/visiting_scholar_program/fy2016/sansan2.pdf (Accessed 22 May 2018).Google Scholar
Schedler, A (2002) The menu of manipulation. Journal of Democracy 13, 3650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schedler, A (2006) The logic of electoral Authoritarianism. In Schedler, A (ed.), Electoral Authoritarianism: The Dynamics of Unfree Competition. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, pp. 123.Google Scholar
Share, D and Mainwaring, S (1986) Transitions through transaction: democratization in Brazil and Spain. In Selcher, WA (ed.), Political Liberalization in Brazil: Dynamics, Dilemmas, and Future Prospects. Boulder: Westview Press, pp. 175215.Google Scholar
Shotton, R, Zin, Wint Yee and Khin, Pwint Oo (2016) State and Region Financing, Planning and Budgeting in Myanmar. What are the Procedures and What are the Outcomes? Yangon: Renaissance Institute and The Asia Foundation. Available at http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs23/AF-2017-02-08-State-and-Region-Financing-Budgeting-and-Planning-in-Myanmar-en-tpo-red.pdf (Accessed 22 May 2018).Google Scholar
South, A (2008) Ethnic Politics in Burma: States of Conflict. London and New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Steinberg, DI and Fan, H (2012) Modern China–Myanmar Relations: Dilemmas of Mutual Dependence. Copenhagen: NIAS Press.Google Scholar
Stockmann, D and Gallagher, ME (2011) Remote control: how the media sustain authoritarian rule in China. Comparative Political Studies 44, 436467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Transparency International (2018) Corruption Perceptions Index. Available at https://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview (Accessed: 22 May 2018).Google Scholar
Way, LA (2004) The sources and dynamics of competitive authoritarianism in Ukraine. Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics 20, 143161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Way, LA (2008) The real causes of the color revolutions. Journal of Democracy 19, 5569.Google Scholar
Whitehead, L (2016) The ‘puzzle’ of autocratic resilience/regime collapse: the case of Cuba. Third World Quarterly 37, 16661682.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wigell, M (2008) Mapping hybrid regimes: regime types and concepts in comparative politics. Democratization 15, 230250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Woods, K (2011) Ceasefire capitalism: military–private partnerships, resource concessions and military-state building in the Burma–China borderlands. Journal of Peasant Studies 38, 747–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
World Bank Group (2014) Myanmar: ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity in a time of transition. November 2014. Yangon: World Bank Group. Online: http://www.worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/document/EAP/Myanmar/WBG_SCD_Full_Report_English.pdf (Accessed 22 March 2018)Google Scholar
Yom, SL and Gause, GF (2012) Resilient royals: how Arab monarchies hang on. The Journal of Democracy 23, 7488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zaw, Oo and Win, Min (2007) Assessing Burma's Ceasefire Accords. Washington, DC: East–West Center.Google Scholar
1
Cited by

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Authoritarian resilience through top-down transformation: making sense of Myanmar's incomplete transition
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Authoritarian resilience through top-down transformation: making sense of Myanmar's incomplete transition
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Authoritarian resilience through top-down transformation: making sense of Myanmar's incomplete transition
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *