Myanmar's constitution, under which the current administration of President Thein Sein was created in 2011, has all the characteristics of a modern republic, but regime opponents see the continued autonomy of the army -- and its political role -- as anomalies. The result has been faltering efforts to amend the constitution, many of them aimed at reducing the role of the military before elections are held later this year.
Despite the army's still-pervasive power, the speed and thoroughness of the transition from military authoritarian rule to a system with most, if not all, the features expected of a "democratic" system have surprised many observers and analysts. They see the transformation in the country as being driven by forces outside the historical experience and understanding of the armed forces leadership. A closer reading of the country's politics since 1988 reveals that the army had a long-term plan to achieve the kind of reforms we are seeing today, laid out far in advance but discounted by most outside observers and political opponents of the military.