Military Slams Proposal for States to Choose Chief Ministers

By The Irrawaddy 2 July 2015

RANGOON — Burma’s unelected military lawmakers on Wednesday argued firmly against a proposed constitutional amendment that would grant state-level parliaments the right to nominate chief ministers.

At present, chief ministers are appointed by the president and subject to approval by sub-national legislatures.

The proposed changes to Article 261 (b), (c), (d) and (e) would invert the process, granting the nominating power to state lawmakers, subject to the president’s endorsement.

The proposal would allow the president to turn down a candidate, at which point the state or divisional Parliament would offer another elected prospect.

The Union Parliament’s military contingent spoke out against the proposal when it was floored for debate on Wednesday, with members claiming it would disrupt the balance of power between the legislature and the administration.

Military lawmaker Brig-Gen Aung Kyaw spoke on behalf of his unelected peers, arguing that such a change would allow the legislature to influence the president.

“Appointment of a chief minister with the approval of the regional Parliament is power-sharing at its best, and [provides] checks and balances between the two branches,” Aung Kyaw said, claiming that opposing agendas in various regions could lead to nominations that benefited the interests of some while ultimately jeopardizing national unity.

“As our country is now in a transitional period, stability is the main concern,” he continued. “Changes to this article should not be made at this moment, and we should leave them alone.”

Wednesday’s discussion was part of a series of parliamentary sessions regarding constitutional reform. Last week, the Union Parliament voted down a seminal proposal geared toward curbing the military’s power in Parliament.

The military-drafted charter reserves 25 percent of seats for unelected uniformed representatives, and requires that most amendments be backed by more than 75 percent of lawmakers, effectively granting veto power to the armed forces.

Article 261 is among the provisions requiring a super-majority for amendment, making it unlikely to pass when it comes to a vote.