USDP and Military Propose 4 New Charter Amendments

By San Yamin Aung 29 May 2019

YANGON—Myanmar’s military and the former ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) have jointly proposed four amendments to the 2008 Constitution, including changes to limit the president’s executive power in states and regions.

The Union Parliament Speaker T Khun Myat announced to lawmakers on Wednesday that the USDP’s U Maung Thin has put forward a draft bill amending the Constitution and that it was signed by 145 lawmakers including USDP lawmakers and 105 military appointees.

According to Chapter 12 of the Constitution, a bill to amend the charter must be submitted with the signatures of at least 20 percent of lawmakers in Parliament. Since the USDP lacks the number, it collaborated with the military, which occupies 25 percent of parliamentary seats, to submit its proposal.

This is the second move by the USDP and military to make amendments to the formation of the region and state governments, the terms of dismissals of chief ministers and ministers of regions and states, the function and authority of the Constitutional Tribunal of the Union and Union Election Commission. Their efforts are made in parallel with those of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) to amend the undemocratic, military-drafted Constitution.

In their first attempt in February this year, they proposed to make a single amendment to the charter’s Article 261— to elect state and regional chief ministers through local legislatures rather than appointed by the president. However, it was voted that their proposal be reviewed by the Charter-Amendment Committee rather than by Parliament.

The Parliament instead determined that the USDP’s proposed bill be examined as part of a broader review being carried out by the Constitution-Amendment Committee—the method paved by the NLD to review the entire 2008 Constitution for amendments.

USDP lawmaker U Maung Thin told reporters in Naypyitaw after the parliamentary session on Wednesday that the proposed changes this time are to Article 248 (c), Article 264, Article 322 and Article 402 of the Constitution.

In the proposed amendment to Article 248 (c), the USDP and military suggest that president must negotiate with the respective state and regional chief ministers to specify the number of ministries needed in each. Under the current Constitution, the president specifies the number of ministries and ministers needed for every state and region and the number may be increased or decreased.

U Maung Thin said they are making the proposal for decentralization as the current government also aims for the establishment of a democratic federal Union.

The NLD has long suggested to amend the same article, but their suggestion is to give full authority to state and regional chief minister to decide the number of ministries and ministers needed in order to grant a degree of autonomous power.

Another proposed amendment sought by the USDP and military in Article 264 of the Constitution is to consider the dismissal of a chief minister or minister if they fail to guard the Constitution in carrying out their duties.

In Article 322, they suggest changes to allow the Constitutional Tribunal of the Union to determine whether the measures of Union-level agencies and parliaments are in conformity with the Constitution or not.

U Maung Thin said they also propose to amend Union Election Commission’s (UEC’s) authority stated under Article 402 which currently stipulates that resolutions and functions made by the UEC are final and conclusive in the cases of election functions, electoral disputes and political party matters.

He said as the UEC is appointed by the winning party, there is no second chance for the aggrieved party if the commission’s decision is not fair.

“We propose that the Parliament make a final decision in the case of electoral disputes,” he said.

In their list of proposed amendments to 168 of the Constitution’s 457 articles published in 2014, the NLD suggested to take out the entire article, suggesting that electoral disputes should be decided by the Supreme Court of the Union.

Union Parliament Speaker T Khun Myat told the Parliament on Wednesday that the proposed draft bill of the USDP and military will be scrutinized by a joint bill committee as per the Parliament laws and by-laws.

At the same parliamentary sitting on Wednesday, the joint bill committee was formed with members of the Lower House and Upper House bill committees.

The Irrawaddy’s Naypyitaw correspondent Htet Naing Zaw contributed to this report.