Myanmar’s Military Retains Important Political Role as NLD’s Key Charter Reforms Fail to Pass

By San Yamin Aung 10 March 2020

Yangon — More than a year of effort by the National League for Democracy (NLD) to reduce the political role granted to the Myanmar military under the 2008 Constitution ended in failure on Tuesday as a series of key charter amendment proposals failed to receive the required support of more than 75 percent of lawmakers.

The Union Parliament voted on amendments to 14 provisions of the Constitution, including proposals that sought to end the defense services’ national political leadership role, gradually reduce the military’s share of seats, and end both the commander-in-chief’s role as the supreme commander of the armed forces and his right to take power during an emergency.

Only two proposals — the changes to the written term for “disabled” in Burmese — received approval.

The provisions voted on Tuesday are covered by Article 436(a), meaning the changes to “disabled” also require over 50 percent support in a national referendum.

The NLD suggested gradually reducing the military’s share of seats from 25 percent to 15 percent after the 2020 election, 10 percent after 2025 and 5 percent after 2030. The proposal only received 404 votes, less than 62 percent of lawmakers.

Ethnic parties during the previous two weeks of parliamentary debates have supported the proposals seeking to limit the role of the military in politics and to remove provisions that enshrine the military’s powers.

But the military-appointed lawmakers and USDP raised strong objections, warning that weakening the military’s power would have “undesirable consequences” that would negatively affect the country’s fragile democratic transition.

The proposals to remove the word “disciplined” before democracy in the charter were also rejected. The Constitution states the “flourishing of a genuine, disciplined multiparty democratic system” as one of the Union’s primary objectives and that “the Union practices a genuine, disciplined multi-party democratic system”.

The Parliament will continue to vote on other proposed constitutional amendments until March 20. The remaining proposals include removing the military’s veto on constitutional changes and the direct election of chief ministers by state and regional legislatures rather than by the President.

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