Burma: The Generals Strike Back

Issue Date April 2021
Volume 32
Issue 2
Page Numbers 22–36
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In November 2020, the National League for Democracy (NLD) won the Burmese general elections by a landslide that even improved on its impressive triumph five years earlier. The NLD’s victory signaled to the Burmese generals—who had ruled the country for half a century and then reluctantly shared power with civilians since 2016—that their ambition to form a government legally was unrealistic, and they responded by staging a coup. This essay explains the reasons for the NLD’s massive electoral win—rooted in the enduring and growing popularity of its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi—and focuses on five motivating forces that once again led the military to overthrow Burma’s legally elected government.

About the Author

Zoltan Barany is Frank C. Erwin Jr. Centennial Professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of Armies of Arabia: Military Politics and Effectiveness in the Gulf (2021). His 2007 book Democratic Breakdown and the Decline of the Russian Military was republished in paperback by Princeton University Press in 2023.

View all work by Zoltan Barany