Myanmar opposition party campaigns for constitution amendment

Yangon – Myanmar’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), along with the 88-Generation Students Peace and Open Society, held a big rally in Yangon Saturday, calling on the public to back efforts for amendment of the restrictive Section 436 of the 2008 Constitution ahead of the upcoming general election in 2015.

Clarifying why the amendment of Section 436 is needed for further changes to the constitution, the NLD and the students group also called on the people to take part in a NLD-88 alliance’ s nationwide signature campaign set to begin on May 27 till July 19 to drum up public support for amending the section.

In her call for constitutional reform, NLD chairperson and parliamentarian Aung San Suu Kyi urged amending the constitution through a way of strengthening national reconciliation and allowing mature and respected democratic practices.

She asserted in her speech that winning the public’s hearts and mind is the one and only way to win election.

She also reaffirmed her support for constitution amendment which she said is critical to building trust in the parliament within the framework of rule of law.

The parliament, on its part, has established a Committee to Implement Constitutional Amendment in February, tasking the committee to make an analysis of the sections of the constitution if it is to amend it or not.

Parliament Speaker U Shwe Mann called on the committee to finish the task in six months to be in time to hold the 2015 general election.

The section 436 of the constitution prescribes that constitution amendment needs the approval of more than 75 percent of all parliament members (MPs).

Besides, changes to some provisions of the sections of the constitution need the prior support of over 75 percent of all the MPs and following the approval of the MPs, a national referendum is to be held, in which more than 50 percent of eligible voters have to support the move.

Analysts pointed out that it will be hard to amend the constitution as military MPs hold 25 percent of all the parliamentary seats.

However, President U Thein Sein said the country’s armed forces will continue to play a role in the democratic transition, while Defense Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing highlighted the role of the armed forces which is responsible for safeguarding the constitution.

U Thein Sein further stressed the need to carry the constitutional amendment and the holding of free and fair election within a legal framework and without harming national sovereignty, warning that unrest will not do any good to the country and its people will suffer.

Another similar campaign of the NLD and the students group will kick off Sunday in Myanmar’s second largest city of Mandalay in the north.

The 194-page 15-chapter Republic of the Union of Myanmar Constitution-2008 was promulgated by the previous military government in May 2008.

Meanwhile, Myanmar has set to add another by-election late this year before the upcoming 2015 general election.

Chairman of the Union Election Commission (UEC) U Tin Aye told the parliament that the date of holding the by-election for 30 open parliamentary seats, scattered at the three levels of Lower and Upper Houses, region or state parliament, is initially set for the first week of December.

The 30 vacant parliamentary seats comprise 13 with the House of Representatives (Lower House), 6 with the House of Nationalities ( Upper House) and 11 with Region or State Parliament.

Myanmar last held its general election on Nov. 7, 2010 and a by- election on April 1, 2012. Source: Xinhua