Bills seeking to reduce military’s political power fail in parliament



A series of proposals seeking to reduce the military’s role in government failed to cross the necessary threshold of 75% of parliamentary votes on Tuesday, leaving the military with much of the political power it granted itself in the country’s 2008 constitution.

Lawmakers voted on 14 of 135 proposed amendments, in the latest phase of the ruling National League for Democracy’s (NLD) attempt to reform the constitution. Voting will continue Wednesday.

The charter, written by the then-ruling military junta, is widely criticized as undemocratic, and the NLD won in a landslide in 2015 pledging to reform it. 

Under the current constitution, military lawmakers fill 25% of parliamentary seats, giving them veto power over any proposed amendment. 

The proposals were submitted by parliament’s charter amendment committee after a year-long process involving more than a dozen political parties.

Among the proposals voted down in Tuesday’s session was one to reduce the military’s parliamentary appointments from 25% to 5% by 2030, in five-year increments.

Others were aimed at abolishing Article 17b, which grants the commander-in-chief the power to appoint key ministers in defence, border security and police, and revoking the commander-in-chief’s ability to assume absolute power in a state of emergency, placing that power instead with parliament and the president. 

Other proposals included abolishing a provision barring civil servants from engaging in political activity and omitting the word ‘disciplined’ from a description in the constitution of Myanmar’s political system as a “genuine and disciplined multi-party democracy.”

The two amendments that did pass the 75% threshold both sought to reframe the constitutional language in Burmese around people with disabilities. 

Both proposals came from the NLD and must now garner more than 50% of voters’ support in a national referendum to take effect.

Some of the most controversial amendments still remain to be voted on.

Article 59f prevents anyone with a foreign spouse or children from becoming president – a provision largely seen as a way to keep Aung San Suu Kyi from assuming the top job. 

On Wednesday, MPs will vote on a proposal to abolish it.

Reporting by Nyan Hlaing Lin and writing by Tin Htet Paing.

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