ArrowArtboardCreated with Sketch.Title ChevronTitle ChevronEye IconIcon FacebookIcon LinkedinIcon Mail ContactPath LayerIcon MailPositive ArrowIcon PrintSite TitleTitle ChevronIcon Twitter
Politics

Suu Kyi's NLD moves to amend Myanmar constitution to curb military

Emergency motion seen as attempt to woo back voters before 2020 election

NAYPYITAW -- Myanmar's ruling National League for Democracy has submitted an emergency motion to parliament aiming to set up a constitutional amendment committee.

The motion submitted on Tuesday marks the first attempts by the NLD to change the constitution since it took office in 2016, and comes with the party's popularity waning in the run-up to elections in 2020.

State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's de facto leader, has repeatedly voiced a commitment to such a change, stressing the need for a partial revision to achieve full democracy for the country.

The present constitution, which was enacted in 2008 under military rule, guarantees the armed forces 25% of parliamentary seats and gives the army's commander-in-chief the power to appoint three ministers related to national security.

It also bars Suu Kyi from becoming president by making candidates with foreign children ineligible.

Constitutional amendment was one of the NLD's main campaign promises in the 2015 general election.

The party's aim is "to motivate people before the election in line with the need to continue the constitutional amendment campaign beyond 2020," said political analyst Yan Myo Thein. It also wants "to highlight the continued military dominance in constitutional affairs."

The NLD won the 2015 poll by a landslide, but it is unclear if the party will be able to hold on to its majority in 2020. The military's guaranteed presence in parliament means the party needs to win two-thirds of the constituencies to retain its current mandate.

In by-elections in November, the NLD took seven of 13 seats being contested in the federal and regional parliaments, entailing a loss of one and three in the chambers, respectively.

The ruling party maintains its stronghold in Yangon and other large cities, but faltering peace talks with ethnic groups have dented its popularity in rural areas with large minority populations.

The economy has also taken its toll. The Kyat's recent slide against major currencies has had a noticeable impact on the lives of ordinary citizens, as the country largely depends on imports of processed food and fuel.

Changing the constitution will be a significant challenge as it requires the backing of more than 75% of parliament. The NLD would need at least one military lawmaker to break ranks for any constitutional amendment to pass. After the speaker of the parliament stated that the objection was dismissed, all the military representatives stood up and boycotted the vote.

Furthermore, the move risks damaging the fragile relationship between the army and the government, as it could be interpreted as an attempt to outflank the military. "Amendments should be made in conformity with the procedures," said Brig. Gen. Maung Maung, criticizing the motion which was submitted without consultation in advance.

The military's continued influence over politics in Myanmar was demonstrated during the Rohingya crisis, which caused more than 700,000 people to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. 

"If the civilian [representatives] and the military are obstinate, there will be a bad outcome rather than a good outcome," said Yan Myo Thein. "The road to [full] democracy could be delayed [further]."

Sponsored Content

About Sponsored Content This content was commissioned by Nikkei's Global Business Bureau.

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this monthThis is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia;
the most dynamic market in the world.

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia

Get trusted insights from experts within Asia itself.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Try 1 month for $0.99

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this month

This is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia; the most
dynamic market in the world
.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Try 3 months for $9

Offer ends July 31st

Your trial period has expired

You need a subscription to...

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers and subscribe

Your full access to the Nikkei Asian Review has expired

You need a subscription to:

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers
NAR on print phone, device, and tablet media