A year ago today, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar/Burma’s military, ordered his troops to take over government buildings, raid the offices of the governing party, arrest members of Myanmar’s democratically elected government and Parliament, shut down independent media, take control of the state media and seize power in a brutal coup d’etat. His decision turned the clock back by more than a decade, reversing ten years of fragile democratisation in which the country had seen credible elections, an independent media, the release of political prisoners, a vibrant civil society and opening up to the international community.
Of course, that decade of reform was far from perfect – not least because it included the genocide of the Rohingyas, continued conflict in ethnic states, particularly Kachin, Shan and Rakhine, and the rise of extreme religious nationalism leading to increased religious discrimination and persecution. But nevertheless, it allowed some seeds of political liberalisation to grow, and enabled the people of Myanmar to vote freely.
Twice – in 2015 and 2020 – Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) won an overwhelming mandate to govern. After years under house arrest, prison, hiding or exile, the NLD – whose mandate from the 1990 elections was never accepted by the military – was now in government.
On 7 November 2021, Daniel Ortega was re-elected President of Nicaragua after months of government repression and violence against protesters. On 10 January 2022 he was inaugurated. This long read on the government’s history of repression against the citizens of Nicaragua was informed by testimonies from several individuals whose names have been withheld for security reasons.
In the first week of June 2021, the political landscape of Nicaragua transformed overnight when police arrested five opposition candidates who were on the ballot for the country’s November 2021 elections. What began as covert government repression of opposition candidates in the election burst into the open as many of them were suddenly detained.
In Nicaragua, the will of a repressive leader is above the law.
The most flawed election in Nicaragua’s history
Since the re-election of Daniel Ortega on 7 November 2021, analysts have contended that the electoral process was one of the most flawed in the country’s history as a democracy, as it was characterised by the arrests of numerous opposition candidates. To many, the scenario for Nicaragua seems hopeless.
“Hate has won, the artist has lost…,” Indian stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui tweeted hours after his Bengaluru show was cancelled. It marked at least the 12th time Mr Faruqui’s show had been cancelled after threats to the venue and the audience. Earlier this year, the 29-year-old Muslim artist spent a month in jail for allegedly joking about Hindu deities, an accusation that the police didn’t have any evidence for. That’s what a ‘joke’ can cost you in India today.
Or rather, in one of the two Indias that stand-up comedian Vir Das described in his Emmy-winning monologue which exposed the blatant hypocrisy prevalent in the country, including in relation to the plight of religious minorities, farmers, women and Dalits. The video went viral on social media, and immediately received a flurry of reactions, with right-wing activists calling for his arrest.
In February 2021, CSW warned that slow progress in ushering a new era for Sudan risked derailing the inclusive national vision that had united so many of its citizens in protest, and which led to the fall of the al-Bashir regime and the creation of a transitional government. Our blog post pointed to the need to learn from neighbouring Egypt’s experiences.
On 25 October 2021, the transitional council was overthrown, and the military seized power in a coup. Once again there are lessons to be drawn from Egypt, and the wider region, in understanding the challenges to democracy in Sudan today.
Both Sudan and Egypt have a complicated history of the involvement of the military in politics. One of the key differences in the two nations’ relationship with the military, however, is one of ideology.
In the immediate post-Mubarak era, the military effectively paved the way for a Muslim Brotherhood electoral victory. However, when the army intervened in political affairs for the second time, it set out to control the excesses of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, positioning itself as the guardian of the Revolution and assisting in the overthrow of the government following mass protests.
Exactly six months ago yesterday, Myanmar, otherwise known as Burma, was plunged into yet another dark chapter in its history – perhaps one of the darkest yet.
On 1 February the army’s Commander-in-Chief, General Min Aung Hlaing, seized power in a bloody coup that overthrew the democratically elected civilian government, led to the arrest of most pro-democracy leaders, and ushered in a new era of brutal repression which many of us hoped had been consigned to Myanmar’s history.