More Than Half of Parliamentarians Back NLD Charter Amendment Bills

By Nyein Nyein 24 January 2020

A total of 351 parliamentarians have signed two charter-amendment bills, drafted by the Constitution Amendment Committee over 11 months. The bills were then forwarded to the speaker on Thursday in Naypyitaw and will be discussed in the Parliament, which is scheduled to resume on Monday, Jan. 27.

The committee completed the draft bills on Monday and collected all the signatures by Thursday.

The first bill includes amendments that would be covered by Article 436(a), requiring approval by more than 75 percent of Parliament and over 50 percent support in a referendum. The second bill includes measures covered by Article 436(b), requiring the approval of over 75 percent of Parliament but no referendum.

“A total of 351 parliamentarians from eight political parties signed the bills. So if we look at the endorsement, 351 constitute more than 50 percent of the total 660 members of parliament,” said the committee’s secretary U Myat Nyana Soe, an Upper House lawmaker from the National League for Democracy (NLD) representing Yangon.

He added: “A bill to amend the charter needs to be submitted with the signatures from at least 20 percent of lawmakers [under Chapter 12 of the 2008 Constitution] and now we are submitting it with signatures from more than 50 percent of parliamentarians.

“We will follow the parliament’s decision,” U Myat Nyana Soe said.

U Tin Tun Naing, a lower house parliamentarian from the NLD, also told The Irrawaddy that they “will continue the efforts for charter amendment through Parliament”.

The Parliament has 385 NLD lawmakers (59 percent); 166 military appointees (25 percent) and 41 USDP members (5 percent). The remaining 11 percent are representatives from 12 other parties and independents.

The amendment committee–the mechanism for the NLD and ethnic parties to reform the military-drafted Constitution—was formed last February with 45 members from 14 political parties, independents and military representatives.

The NLD holds 18 seats on the committee and the military has eight. There are two each from the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), Arakan National Party (ANP) and Shan Nationalities League for Democracy; and one each from 10 other parties, one independent and the Upper House deputy speaker.

By July the committee had considered 3,765 recommended changes.

Voicing their disapproval with the process of drafting the amendment bill,  the USDP, ANP and the National United Democratic Party quit the committee late last year.

The military also rejected the committee and its work as unconstitutional from its inception, but its representatives joined some of the committee’s meetings. The military submitted two amendment bills and three bills jointly with the USDP to Parliament last year.

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