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Myanmar Charter Change Before Election Confirms Speaker

Published Dec 06, 2019
Updated Feb 06, 2020

Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s election manifesto for the 2015 polls in the country in which the National League for Democracy participated for the first time in national elections had declared an intent to review the country’s 2008 Constitution.

The Constitution provides enhanced powers to the Army and also constrains the posts that can be held by citizens having foreign relatives thus circumscribing Aung Suu Kyi whose late husband was a British citizen and two sons remain so to this day.

Despite forming a Constitutional Review Committee of the parliament Suu Kyi who holds the post of Counsellor and Foreign minister officially but is treated as a de-facto head of state during her foreign visits has said there she is not hopeful that the review of the Constitution is unlikely to happen soon. She thus calls Myanmar’s democracy as incomplete

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told Nikkei Asian Review that the “military are not overly enthusiastic” about amending the Constitution, while insisting that charter change is necessary if Myanmar is to transition to a “complete democracy.”..

Myanmar Union Parliament Speaker U T Khun Myat confirmed that the Parliament will finish the process of drafting and voting on constitutional reform bills during its current term, in response to doubts raised by military and Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) lawmakers over the process.

The current Parliament, dominated by the National League for Democracy (NLD), convened on Feb. 1, 2016 and will end in early 2021.  “Some lawmakers are concerned about whether [the constitutional reform process] can be completed during the term of the Parliament. [I] accepted the proposal [to form the Charter Amendment Committee] because I am sure the tasks of the committee can be completed during this term,” U T Khun Myat told lawmakers. There is no precedent for a Parliament handing a bill over to a newly elected legislature, he added.

As per the Irrawaddy, the Charter Amendment Committee—formed in response to a proposal by an NLD lawmaker in February—is tasked with reviewing the entire Constitution, collecting proposed changes from the various parties, finalizing recommendations, drafting amendment legislation and submitting it to Parliament. The committee has collected more than 3,700 proposed changes from various parties and is currently drafting the legislation.

“We will be able to finish our job soon,” said Lower House lawmaker U Tin Thit of the NLD, who is a member of the committee. “We hope to submit the legislation during the next parliamentary session. It will cover all the provisions [in the Constitution]. We will be able to finish it during the current [Parliament’s] term,” he added.

However, Arakan National Party lawmaker U Pe Than doubted the Constitution would be amended during the term of the current government, due to time constraints.

The NLD is planning to submit the thousands of proposed changes to Parliament in separate bills (as opposed to submitting them in a single bill), each of which would have to be signed by at least 20 percent of lawmakers, as required of amendment legislation by the charter.  He said whether or not the process can be completed during this term will depend on how swiftly the committee can put forward the individual amendment proposals to Parliament says the Irrawaddy.