By-Election Mandate on Filling Empty Seats Passes Both Chambers

By San Yamin Aung 8 January 2016

RANGOON — Both houses of Parliament have now approved an amendment to Burma’s election laws requiring a by-election within six months of a chamber seat being vacated.

During a parliamentary session on Thursday, the Upper House sent the amended laws, which would apply to the country’s bicameral Union Parliament as well as regional legislatures, back to the Lower House with no changes to the legislation, which the lower chamber passed last month.

The changes will now be sent to President Thein Sein for review, becoming law upon his approval.

The amended laws would mandate that the Union Election Commission (UEC) organize by-elections within six months of a legislative chamber’s speaker informing lawmakers of a seat opening. Under the existing election laws, no timeframe is provided for when a vacant seat must be filled.

“If a National League for Democracy [NLD]-led government selects cabinet members from their elected lawmakers, as the Union Solidarity and Development Party [USDP] did, then the by-election might need to be held this year,” Upper House lawmaker Phone Myint Aung said.

A by-election was called in 2012 after members elected to office in Burma’s discredited 2010 general election were later appointed to cabinet positions in the victorious USDP government, removing them from their seats. The opposition NLD won 43 of 44 contested seats in that by-election.

The NLD won almost 80 percent of contested seats in Burma’s historic Nov. 8 polls, and the party is set to form the country’s new government in March.