Political parties and religion in Myanmar

Authored by: Kristian Stokke

The Routledge Handbook to Religion and Political Parties

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138500464
eBook ISBN: 9781351012478
Adobe ISBN:


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Myanmar is characterised by a puzzling paradox when it comes to the relationship between religions and political parties: while religions, especially Theravada Buddhism, are omnipresent in society and frame politics in multiple and contentious ways, the reintroduction of electoral politics has not been followed by the formation of religious parties or major party-driven politicisation of religious identities and interests. Although religious beliefs and belongings are parts of politics in a broad sense, the links between religions and political parties seem relatively weak and are difficult to discern. This chapter provides tentative analytical reflections on this conundrum. The chapter reviews the reintroduction of electoral democracy and party-politics in Myanmar, with special attention to the character of parties and the party system, and their links to religion. Thereafter, the attention turns to how the majority religion (Theravada Buddhism) frames democratic politics and is a basis for contentions over the relationship between Buddhism and politics. The chapter concludes with brief reflections on the increased role of religion in electoral competition and how this may be furthered or ameliorated in future elections.

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