Most people in Myanmar want constitution amendment: Poll

Published: November 11, 2013

Yangon, Nov 11 (IANS) Myanmar’s opposition party, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, held a regionwide constitutional public opinion poll in Yangon Sunday in the form of a mass rally, with 99.9 percent of the participants agreeing to the amendment of the existing 2008 Constitution.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) told the public gathering that it will submit the opinions to the parliament’s Constitutional Review Joint Committee by the end of December for further review, Xinhua reported.

The NLD itself also formed a constitution amendment committee, saying that constitution amendments are necessary as rule of law, internal peace and genuine democracy building are depending upon it.

The committee found out that the present constitution includes provisions which are not in line with democratic standards and which would harm the 2015 general elections from being free and fair.

The NLD has been collecting public opinions on the constitutional amendment region-wise and state-wise since mid-October, finding that the majority of the public prefer the amendment for re-drawing of the constitution.

The parliament’s Constitution Review Joint Committee started to invite advice and suggestions from a wide range of stakeholders in October for review or amendment of the 2008 State Constitution.

Assessment and advice were sought from the legislative, administrative and judicial pillars through the parliament and those from political parties, organisations and individuals through respective parliament representatives.

The 109-member Constitution Review Joint Committee, set up in July, has extended the deadline for submission of such advice and assessment to Dec 31 instead of Nov 15.

The 194-page 15-chapter Republic of the Union of Myanmar Constitution – 2008, drafted through the National Convention, was promulgated in May 2008 after a nationwide referendum was held.

Under that constitution, the country adopts an executive system of president as head of state who is produced through parliamentary election.

The president is also chief of national defence and security commission in which the commander-in-chief of the defence services is a member.

The country’s parliament comprises the House of Representatives (lower house )and House of Nationalities (upper house). The legislative power is shared by the parliament, region or state parliaments as well as self-administered zones or divisions.

Politically, it pursues a multi-party system, however, with the military participating in the leading role in the country’s so-called national politics.

The constitution reserved 25 percent of the parliamentary seats for directly-nominated parliament members from the military without needing to go through election.

The administrative posts of defence, security and border affairs are held by the military. The defence services chief represents the supreme commander of all armed forces and is legitimised to take over and exercise all state power in case a state of emergency arises.

Economically, it adopts a market-oriented economic system, allowing the private sector to participate in the economic undertakings of state, regional, cooperative and joint venture organisations for national economic development.

The constitution guarantees no nationalisation of private economic enterprises and demonetisation of legal bank notes.

In foreign relations, Myanmar practices an independent, active and non-aligned foreign policy and maintains friendly relations with foreign nations, upholding the principles of peaceful coexistence among nations. It does not allow foreign troops to be deployed in the country.

It stipulates that the constitution text cannot be amended without the consent of more than 75 percent of the parliament members and more than half of the number of eligible voters.

Under that constitution, a general election was held in November 2010, producing parliament representatives in a process to hand over power to a democratically elected civil government.

Myanmar has seen three constitutions with the first in 1947 drawn before it regained independence from the British colonialists.

The second was in 1974 when it was drawn to meet the then socialist system, allowing the existence of only a single political party, and the third was in 2008 when it was drafted to meet the transition of the military rule to civilian rule.

IANS 2013-11-11 17:54:03

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