Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Jacobsen, Trude

Second Advisor

Clark, Michael

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Political Science


How did Myanmar’s military embrace liberalization more during 2011-2015 than in the 1988-2002 period? Myanmar has long been treated as an outlying case by studies on democratization, liberalization, and transitions from authoritarian regimes due to its longstanding military regime. Protests in 1988 led to pressure on the regime to hold elections in 1990, leading to an electoral victory for the opposition party the National League for Democracy (NLD), but the results were ultimately overturned, and Myanmar’s military regime persisted. The period of 2011-2015 showed marked similarities with the earlier 1988-2002 period, including protests and pressure for democratic elections. Despite the seemingly analogous events between these two periods, when the NLD again won a majority of votes in the 2015 general elections, Myanmar’s regime allowed the results to stand and opened the door for a process of liberalization and democratization. This project explores how the political environment changed in Myanmar from 1988 to 2015. Through the use of interviews, a media content analysis, and process tracing, I find that a series of institutional changes which took place during the 2003-2010 period contributed to the regime’s sense of confidence in their ability to control a transition, ultimately creating an opportunity for political change in one of the world’s most durable authoritarian regime.


437 pages




Northern Illinois University

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