Category Civics

What is a coup?

On February 1, 2021, people of Myanmar woke up to the news that the country’s military has seized power from the elected government in a coup. The country’s President Win Myint, State Counsellor and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and numerous members of her party National League for Democracy (NLD) were detained. In a television address, the army announced that power had been handed over to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Min Aung Hlaing, and that it was declaring a national state of emergency for one year. People also fear that there could be wider clampdown under the military rule. Let’s take a look at what led to a coup Myanmar in this Five Ws and One H..

A coup (pronounced koo) is when power is illegally and unconstitutionally seized from the government of country, by a political faction or the military. Violence is part of many coups. In other words, a coup is the forcible overthrow of ruler or government. The word coup is short for the French term “coup detat,” which translates as “stroke of state.”

Coup is often the result of displeasure with how the country is run by the elected government or ruler. A military coup, as in the case of Myanmar, is when the military takes control of governance by staging a coup.

What are the different types of coup?

The world has witnessed different kinds of coup and political scientists categorise them into various types. Some of them are military coup, civil society coup, parliamentary coup, presidential coup, breakthrough coup, silent coup, democratic coup and the guardian coup.

Why did the military stage a coup in Myanmar?

A crisis has been brewing in Myanmar since the November 2020 parliamentary election, in which Suu Kyi’s NLD party won in a landslide against the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development party. The latter won just 33 out of 476 seat. But the military refused to accept the results, claiming widespread irregularities in the election and demanded a new military-supervised election. However, the election commission refused, saying there was no evidence to support its claims of fraudulence.

Citing a provision in the Constitution it had drafted (in 2008), the military warned that it could launch a coup if it felt a threat to the nation’s sovereignty.

And on February 1, which was supposed to be the first day of a new session of parliament since the November election, the military staged a coup.

What is the background?

Myanmar gained independence from Britain in 1948 and Sao Shwe Thaik became its first president and U Nu became its first prime minister. In 1962, the Tatmadaw, as the country’s military is formally known, staged a coup and took over power. Since then, Myanmar has switched between military rule and civilian leadership.

Myanmar was ruled by the armed forces from 1962 to 2011, when pressure from the international community forced the military to cede power and a new government ushered in a return to civilian rule. But the Constitution the military had drafted ahead of this cessation gave it at least 25% of the seats in the Legislature. According to the Constitution, any amendment is possible only if over 75% of lawmakers vote for it. So, in effect, the military holds the power to veto any attempt by the government that could be seen as a threat to its authority.

In 2015, Suu Kyi’s NLD won a sweeping victory in the general elections. However, the military retained significant power under the Constitution that also barred her from the presidency, as her two sons are citizens and ran the government as a de facto leader (a leader in fact, whether or not constitutionally binding).

The election in November 2020 was only Myanmar’s second-ever election since the end of the military rule in 2011. Post election, Suu Kyi proposed to make amendments to Myanmar’s Constitution and Strip the military of many of its authorities. This move received major support from people, but ruffled the feathers of the military.

How has the international community reacted?

World leaders condemn the coup and detainment of Suu Kyi. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was a “serious blow to democratic reforms”, while the U.S. President Joe Biden has threatened to reinstate sanctions. Meanwhile, people of Myanmar resorted to non-violent means to register their protest against the coup.

What are some of the coups in the recent times?

Many coups (pronounced kooz) have been staged in the past. Here, we are listing some of the recent ones.

1999 Pakistan coup: The the military leader Parvez Musharraf overthrew the Pakistani government under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on October 12, 1999. It was a bloodless coup as Musharraf declared an emergency and took control of the entire country.

2013 Egyptian Coup: On July 3, 2013, Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi led a coalition to remove the President of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, from power and suspended the Egyptian constitution.

2016 Turkish failed coup attempt: On July 15, 2016, the Turkish military attempted a coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but could not succeed in overthrowing the government. Hundreds were killed in the violence that ensued and thousands were detained subsequently.

2019 Sudanese coup: On April 11, 2019, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, after nearly 30 years in office, was overthrown by the Sudanese army after popular protest demanded his departure.

 

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What is impeachment?

Recently, thousands of Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the US. Capitol, and interrupted the Congress where lawmakers were about to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the November 3 election. Subsequently, Trump was charged with inciting violence against the government of the United States”. There were calls from Democrats to impeach President Trump, a Republican, in his final week in power. What is impeachment? Who can be impeached from office? How is it done? Here’s a primer.

What it means

Impeachment is a proceeding that is initiated by a legislative body against a top government official for serious misconduct. The charges are put forth, and the official is tried, while still in office. Different countries have their own impeachment processes.

Origin

The first recognised case of impeachment was in 1376 during the reign of Edward III in England. The process was sparingly used till the 17th Century, when it was revived to eliminate unpopular subjects of the Crown. However, after the unsuccessful impeachment trials of Warren Hastings (1788-95) and Lord Melville (1806), it fell out of use in Britain.

The U.S. process

In the U.S., the power to impeach a President rests with Congress (that includes the House of Representatives and the Senate). According to the US, Constitution, a President shall be removed from office impeachment for, and conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours”. This also applies to the Vice President and all civil officers of the US.

The Indian president

In India, impeachment is raised in either House of Parliament. A President can face Impeachment for ‘violation of the Constitution’. There has to be a majority of no less than two-thirds of the total membership of both houses of Parliament.

Article 61 lays down that when a President is to be either impeached the charge shall be preferred by House of Parliament The other House will investigate or cause the charge to be investigated. The President has the right to appear or to be represented at such investigations

Similarly, Parliament can introduce a motion seeking the removal of judges, including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and High Courts. However, though the process that ensures checks against misconduct is quite similar the word impeachment does not figure in the Constitution in the context of judges (Article 124-4).

Why is impeachment necessary?

Without impeachment there will be no system of checks and balances to ensure that the person who is legally considered to be the most important functionary in the political system does not abuse his office.

Past notable impeachments

The first U. S. President to face impeachment was Andrew Johnson (1868). Other notable impeachments include those against Presidents Richard Nixon (1973), Bill Clinton (1998) and Donald Trump (2019). If the process is taken up, Trump with be the first president to face impeachment twice.

In India, no President has faced impeachment so far.

 

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What is the UNSC?

India began its two-year term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council on January 1, 2021. What is the UNSC? If India is a non permanent member, who are its permanent members? Why has India been stepping up efforts for the reform of the Council? Let’s see.

One of the organs of the UN

The UNSC is one of the six main organs of the United Nations. Its objective is to maintain international peace and security. The UNSC has 15 members, of which, five, China, France, Russia, U.K. and the U.S., are permanent members with veto power (power to withhold assent or reject any resolution). The rest are non-permanent members who are elected to serve a two-year term on the Council. The non-permanent members at present are Estonia, India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Niger, Norway, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, and Vietnam. As these members do not have veto rights, they are considered powerless. In other words, they cannot assert their view on any issue of international concern.

Empowered to make decisions

Unlike other organs of the UN which can only make recommendations, the Security Council has the power to make decisions, called resolutions, and impose them on member countries. Each member of the Council has one vote. The UNSC may meet whenever there is a threat to peace and security. It first met in January 1946, three months after the United Nations came into existence. Responsible for diplomatically resolving crises and conflicts around the world, the Council can also resort to imposing economic sanctions, travel bans, financial restrictions or authorise the use of force. It seeks to resolve disputes through mediation, special envoys or by sending a UN Mission. It supervises the work of the UN peacekeeping operations.

Criticism against the Council

Although it has been successful in addressing several global issues, it has been criticised for its lack of credibility. It has long been felt that the Security Council in its present form lacks legitimacy, is outdated (reflecting the power centres of 1945) and does not correspond with the changed global realities. It is often said that the Council requires comprehensive reforms to address contemporary challenges, better representation and a strong multilateralism that gives voice to all stakeholders. The exclusive right of the five permanent members of the Council to veto any proposed decision has long been a subject of controversy. Perceived as an undemocratic arrangement, this has been cited as the main reason for UN’s inaction on crimes against humanity.

Quick facts

  • India is serving its term as a non-permanent member of the powerful 15-nation UN body for the eighth time. It won 184 of the 192 votes cast in the elections in June 2020 for the five non-permanent seats of the UNSC. A member country requires a two-thirds majority of votes in the General Assembly to become a non permanent member. Besides India, Norway, Kenya, Ireland and Mexico were elected non permanent members in June.
  • Counter-terrorism is stated to be India’s priority during its membership. Besides, getting permanent membership is high on the country’s agenda. India will chair the three crucial committees – Taliban and Libya sanctions committees and the Counter Terrorism Committee – of the UNSC during its tenure as a non-permanent member.
  • India will be UNSC President in August 2021 and will preside over the Council again for a month in 2022. The presidency of the Council is held for a month by each of the members in turn, as per the alphabetical order of the names of the member countries.

 

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What is the Central Vista Project?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month laid the foundation stone for the new Parliament building in New Delhi. Do you know where it’s going to come up, when it will be completed and what its proposed features are?

The new building will be constructed close to the existing Parliament building in the Parliament House Estate, under the Central Vista Redevelopment Project. It is expected to be completed by 2022 in time for the commemoration of the 75th year of India’s Independence. The landmark project, which was announced in 2019, involves constructing a Parliament building, a common central secretariat and revamping of the three-km long stretch from the Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate known as the Central Vista. According to PM Modi, the Central Vista Project will be “a symbol of a new, self reliant India”.

The triangular-shaped Parliament building is designed by architect Bimal Patel of Ahmedabad-based HCP Design, Planning and Management. Tata Projects Limited won the bid to construct the new Parliament building with an area of 64,500 square metres at an estimated cost of 3971 crore.

Highlights

The new triangular building will have four storeys, and the national emblem will crown the edifice. Its interiors will be inspired by the national flower lotus and the national bird peacock. In the new building, the Lok Sabha chamber will have a seating capacity for 1,224 members, while the Rajya Sabha will have 384 seats. At present, the Lok Sabha has strength of 543 members and Rajya Sabha 245. The new building will also have a Central Constitution Hall to showcase the country’s democratic heritage, a library, committee rooms and dining areas.

The existing circular Parliament House building will be refurbished for use along with the new one. The North and South blocks will be converted into museums.

Why is the revamp needed?

According to the Government, the existing Parliament building built by the British in the 1920s is structurally unsafe. Most of the buildings along the Central Vista have outlived their structural lives. Inadequate infrastructure, lack of safety features and offices spread over different locations are also cited as the reasons for the revamp. It is said that the proposed Secretariat buildings, which will bring all offices in one place, will help improve the functioning of the government.

Criticism against the project

The Central Vista redevelopment project is criticised for having been initiated when the country is reeling under the coronavirus pandemic. Some experts have raised concerns about the project’s environmental impact. Several petitions challenging the project were filed before the Supreme Court. However, the apex court has given the green signal to the project, upholding the environment clearance and permission for change in land use for the project. The government has clarified that it will be sensitive to environmental concerns during construction.

 

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How many countries are members of the UN now?

The United Nations member states are the 193 sovereign states that are members of the United Nations (UN) and have equal representation in the UN General Assembly. The UN is the world’s largest intergovernmental organization.

In principle, only sovereign states can become UN members, and currently, all UN members are sovereign states. Although five members were not sovereign when they joined the UN, they all subsequently became fully independent between 1946 and 1991. Because a state can only be admitted to membership in the UN by the approval of the Security Council and the General Assembly, a number of states that are considered sovereign according to the Montevideo Convention are not members of the UN. This is because the UN does not consider them to possess sovereignty, mainly due to the lack of international recognition or due to opposition from one of the permanent members.

In addition to the member states, the UN also invites non-member states to become observers at the UN General Assembly, allowing them to participate and speak in General Assembly meetings, but not vote. Observers are generally intergovernmental organizations and international organizations and entities whose statehood or sovereignty is not precisely defined.

 

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Can you name the permanent members of the UN Security Council?

The permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (also known as the Permanent Five, Big Five, or P5) are the five sovereign states to whom the UN Charter of 1945 grants a permanent seat on the UN Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The permanent members were all allies in World War II (and the victors of that war), and are also all states with nuclear weapons (though not all five had developed nuclear weapons prior to the formation of the United Nations). The remaining 10 members of the council are elected by the General Assembly, giving a total of 15 UN member states. All five permanent members have the power of veto, which enables any one of them to prevent the adoption of any “substantive” draft Council resolution, regardless of its level of international support.

The “power of veto” refers to the veto power wielded solely by the permanent members, enabling them to prevent the adoption of any “substantive” draft Council resolution, regardless of the level of international support for the draft. The veto does not apply to procedural votes, which is significant in that the Security Council’s permanent membership can vote against a “procedural” draft resolution, without necessarily blocking its adoption by the council.

The veto is exercised when any permanent member—the so-called “P5″—casts a “negative” vote on a “substantive” draft resolution. Abstention or absence from the vote by a permanent member does not prevent a draft resolution from being adopted.

 

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