Transition to Democracy or Hybrid Regime? The Dynamics and Outcomes of Democratization in Myanmar

Abstract

This article analyzes Myanmar’s transition from authoritarianism and asks if it represents a transition towards democracy or a hybrid form of rule. Starting from theoretical debates about modes of transition, the article examines competing discourses on Myanmar’s opening and argues that it resembles an imposed more than a negotiated transition. Next, the article analyzes the links between this mode of transition and its outcomes, and finds that contemporary Myanmar is characterized by a combination of formal institutions for democratic representation, civilian government, and power-sharing, and problems of weak popular representation, limited civilian control of the military, and continued centralization of state authority. The article concludes that Myanmar’s political trajectory remains open-ended, but also that Myanmar, at least for the time being, seems more accurately described as a relatively stable hybrid regime than as a country that is in transition to democracy.

Résumé

Cet article analyse la transition suite à la fin de l’autoritarisme au Myanmar et se pose la question de savoir s’il s’agit d’une transition vers la démocratie ou vers une forme de gouvernement hybride. À partir de débats théoriques sur les modes de transition, l’article étudie les discours contradictoires sur l’ouverture du Myanmar et affirme que cela ressemble davantage à une transition imposée qu’à une transition négociée. Ensuite, l’article analyse les liens entre ce mode de transition et ses résultats et conclut que le Myanmar contemporain se caractérise à la fois par des institutions officielles pour la représentation démocratique, pour un gouvernement civil et un partage du pouvoir, ainsi que par des problèmes de faible représentation populaire, de contrôle civil limité de l’armée, et de centralisation continue de l’autorité de l’Etat. L’article conclut que la trajectoire politique du Myanmar reste ouverte, mais que le Myanmar, du moins pour le moment, semble mieux décrit comme un régime hybride relativement stable que comme un pays en transition vers la démocratie.

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Funding

This research has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement N°770562 (CRISEA).

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Stokke, K., Aung, S.M. Transition to Democracy or Hybrid Regime? The Dynamics and Outcomes of Democratization in Myanmar. Eur J Dev Res 32, 274–293 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41287-019-00247-x

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Keywords

  • Mode of transition
  • Authoritarianism
  • Democracy
  • Democratization
  • Hybrid regime
  • Civil–military relations
  • Representation
  • Myanmar