RANGOON — The Union Election Commission (UEC) has called on Union Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann, who was recently removed from the chairmanship of Burma’s ruling party, to immediately enact a law on impeachment proceedings for lawmakers.
In a letter sent to the speaker on Thursday, the UEC said Parliament’s failure to pass a bill laying out the procedure for impeaching sitting lawmakers had deprived voters of their constitutional prerogative to recall elected representatives.
The right to recall parliamentarians is enshrined in Chapter 9 of the Constitution, and the charter’s Article 397 states: “The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw [Union Parliament] shall enact the necessary laws on matters relating to ‘Election’ and on matters relating to ‘Recall.’”
The UEC said it is the fourth time it has sent a letter to the parliamentary leadership on the matter, the first instruction being delivered in August 2012, but the latest invocation comes less than a month after it was revealed that the election commission had received a petition calling for the impeachment of the now former chairman of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), Shwe Mann.
The petition had gathered some 1,700 signatures from Shwe Mann’s Naypyidaw constituency of Zayarthiri, with signatories claiming he had violated the law by not respecting the military’s role in Parliament.
The petition alleged that Shwe Mann had failed to inform his constituents about plans to hold parliamentary deliberations on constitutional reform, leading to a “misunderstanding” between members of the public and the military.
At the time, the petition was legally inconsequential owing to the absence of prescribed proceedings for the impeachment of a sitting parliamentarian, but that could change if the legislature acts on the UEC’s instruction.
“Since there is no law yet, we can do nothing on it,” UEC member Win Kyi told The Irrawaddy on Friday, referring to the petition against Shwe Mann.
Asked if there was any connection between the UEC’s latest impeachment law-related missive to Shwe Mann and the Zayarthiri petition or his recent purge from the USDP, Win Kyi reiterated that it was not a new issue being raised by the commission.
“It is not the case that [the UEC instruction on an impeachment law] has only started now. We sent the letters before,” Win Kyi said. “It is the fourth time that we sent it.”
All three state-run daily newspapers saw fit to report on the latest UEC letter, with the English-language Global New Light of Myanmar running a front-page story under the headline: “UEC urges Pyidaungsu Hluttaw to work for bill revoking duty of representative.”
The timing of state media’s editorial decision to report on Shwe Mann’s failure to act on impeachment legislation is bound to raise eyebrows, given the latest political machinations within the ruling party’s senior leadership.
Shwe Mann was unceremoniously dumped as chairman of the USDP on Wednesday evening, with the party saying a day later that his ouster was because the speaker was “too busy” with matters of Parliament and could not devote sufficient time to the party as it gears up for Burma’s general election on Nov. 8.
It is widely believed that the official reason was thinly veiled pretense for the settling of a power struggle between Shwe Mann and President Thein Sein, who the USDP said had personally ordered that the speaker be relieved of his party chairmanship duties.
Shwe Mann’s ouster likely dealt a serious blow to his presidential ambitions, which have long been known. Publically, Thein Sein has not given a clear indication of whether he will seek re-election to the nation’s top civilian job after parliamentary elections in November.