The 43 prospective MPs from the National League for Democracy (NLD) may not take their seats in Parliament until the government changes the wording of the oath that MPs must swear by―in particular, the pledge that they must “protect the Constitution.”
NLD spokesperson and lawyer Nyan Win told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the party is awaiting a response from President Thein Sein to a letter that party leaders sent him regarding the oath.
The president is due to travel to Tokyo for a five-day visit at the end of the week, leading to fears that such an amendment may take time.
Nyan Win said that the party members “want to respect the law,” but that the wording was “unacceptable.” He also confirmed that the elected candidates will meet in Rangoon on April 19-20 to seek legal guidance and to discuss parliamentary strategy.
“They must change the oath, because they have already changed the law,” MP-elect Zeya Thaw told The Irrawaddy.
“We are not going to join [the Parliament] on the 23rd [April],” he said, adding that they would wait until the wording of the oath has been changed.
“Our party re-registered because they changed the law, and in our campaign we talked about the amendment procedure [of the Constitution]. If we accept [the oath], we are lying to our people, that’s why we cannot accept it,” Zeya Thaw said.
He explained that the NLD took part in the April 1 by-election because the government agreed to amend an election law that originally stated that parties must “abide by and protect” the constitution, but which was changed to read “abide by and respect.”
The oath, however, still states that MPs must “protect” the constitution. The NLD campaigned during the by-election on a platform which promised to fight for the amendment of non-democratic articles within the 2008 Constitution.
The NLD has stated that it is committed to changing the constitution which guarantees that 25 percent of seats are reserved for the military, and that the military can seize power in a state of emergency without recourse to legal approval. To amend constitutional articles requires some 75 percent of approval in the Parliament.
Zeya Thaw further stated that Dr. Myat Nyar Na Soe―their sole MP who currently sits in Parliament, having defected from the National Democratic Force (NDF)―would seek to press for the amendments in the Upper House.