ANP Calls for Removing Military from Parliament in One Fell Swoop

By Moe Moe 19 March 2019

NAYPYITAW—The Arakan National Party (ANP) on Monday proposed amending the Constitution to establish a Union Parliament composed entirely of elected civilian lawmakers, according to Lower House lawmaker U Aung Kyaw Zan of the ANP.

The party made the proposal at a meeting of the committee to draft amendments to the 2008 Constitution.

While the ANP seeks a military-free legislature, the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) has proposed a gradual reduction in the 25 percent of all parliamentary seats the Constitution currently reserves for unelected military lawmakers, U Aung Kyaw Zan said.

An NLD lawmaker on the committee who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Irrawaddy that the ruling party would rather take a pragmatic approach, believing it is unrealistic to ask the military to return to the barracks immediately.

“We will need their [the military’s] approval even to reduce their share [of seats],” he said.

The NLD has proposed reducing the military block to 15 percent in the 2020 election, and by a further 5 percentage points at each general election.

“Under Article 436, no amendment can be made to the Constitution without the approval of military-appointed lawmakers. So there is a need for serious negotiations between the leaders of the government, the Tatmadaw and the ruling party,” political analyst Dr. Yan Myo Thein told The Irrawaddy.

Military-appointed lawmakers declined to comment when asked about the ANP and NLD’s proposals.

NLD lawmaker U Aung Kyi Nyunt, who submitted the initial proposal that led to the formation of the committee to draft amendments to the 2008 Constitution, said the process is going smoothly and swiftly but declined to offer details.

The committee has thus far discussed nearly 200 provisions from Chapters 1 through 4 of the 13-chapter Constitution. It has already submitted 48 proposed amendments relating to basic principles of the Union as described in Chapter 1.

The ANP has also proposed downsizing the bicameral Union Parliament, U Aung Kyaw Zan said.

“The cost of operating the Union Parliament is high. There is also a need for staff. The [bicameral] Union Parliament is unnecessary. When a decision needs to be put to a vote by the two houses, we just need to see how the majority of the Lower House votes,” he said.

Under normal conditions, there are 224 lawmakers in the Upper House and 440 in the Lower House. Currently, there are 657 lawmakers in the Union Parliament.