Military blocks change to charter that would allow Suu Kyi to be president

The military has blocked the National League for Democracy’s bid to change the constitution so that Aung San Suu Kyi can be president.

Sixty percent of lawmakers voted on Wednesday to abolish article 59f of the 2008 charter, which prevents anyone with a foreign spouse or children from assuming the top position.

But the change needed more than three quarters of the vote to pass, meaning the unelected military MPs who take up a quarter of all seats effectively vetoed it.

It was among 15 proposed amendments to the military-drafted charter that MPs voted on during the second day of a fortnight-long process covering 135 proposals.

The constitution is widely criticised as undemocratic because as well as guaranteeing soldiers seats in parliament it grants the military control over key ministries and codifies its role in political life.

There was also a proposal to change article 201 to remove the border affairs minister from the powerful National Defense and Security Council and instead add the deputy speaker of each house in parliament.

On Tuesday the NLD failed to pass several other amendments, including one aimed at stripping the commander-in-chief of his power to take charge of the country in a state of emergency.

They had proposed giving that power to parliament and the president, but also adding a clause saying the president can seek assistance from the military in areas under a state of emergency.

A USDP proposal was among the 15 that failed on Wednesday. The party wanted the charter to oblige the president to consult with regional ministers on the formation of cabinets in regional governments.

NLD lawmakers rejected that change but voted in favour of reducing the minimum age to qualify for the presidency from 45 to 40 and of making the union supreme court the highest legal authority in the country, so it would be above courts-martial and the constitutional tribunal.

The votes come at the end of a year-long process led by a parliamentary charter amendment committee and involving more than a dozen political parties.

Only two amendments have passed so far. They both changed language referencing people with disabilities in an effort to modernise it. MPs will vote on the remaining 106 proposals until March 20.

(Writing by Tin Htet Paing)

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