Why Veterans Lose : The Decline of Retired Military Officers in Myanmar’s Post-Junta Elections

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2611–2628
Number of pages18
Journal / PublicationThird World Quarterly
Issue number11
Online published25 Sep 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


Retired military officers often continue to wield significant influence in regimes built after the end of junta rule, sometimes helping to bridge enduring civil–military divides. Myanmar’s recent legislative elections offers a counterintuitive case. There has been a rapidly decreasing influence of military retirees in the electoral landscape shaped in the 2010s. I reveal this decline using data on the sociological background of candidates for the 2015 and 2020 elections. Then, building on field interviews with retired officers who ran for office, I offer five explanatory propositions: (1) the depletion of moral capital held by soldiers; (2) military socialisation and the difficulties for veterans to transition to political life, with rivals from other sectors emerging as better equipped; (3) the existence of worthier avenues for power, influence and wealth acquisition; (4) the failure of the authoritarian successor party to manipulate votes and be voted back into office; and (5) the lingering authority and political sway of serving officers. The findings illuminate the persistent insulation from Myanmar society of its active military – even before the 2021 coup – and challenge the claim that veterans can help close the widening gap in Myanmar’s civil–military relations.

Research Area(s)

  • Veterans, Myanmar, Authoritarian successor party, Military socialisation, Legislator profile, Electoral politics