By Aye Min Soe
Nay Pyi Taw, 25 June — The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw on Thursday voted down proposed amendments to the constitution that sought to remove the military’s effective veto power over key legislative reforms and alter the eligibility requirements for the presidency.
Out of six proposed changes to the constitution, the parliament voted in favour of only one, an amendment to Section (d) which changes the wording of “military” to “defence” in a clause stipulating that a president must be well acquainted with the political, administrative, economic and military affairs of the Union.
The five amendments rejected by the parliament included one which sought to limit the military’s legislative power by lowering the voting threshold for constitutional reform from 75 to 70 percent of MPs in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw in Section 436 (a) and (b).
The sections currently stipulate that amendments of some key provisions must be agreed upon by more than 75 percent of MPs, in addition to more than 50 percent of eligible voters in a referendum. As the military is guaranteed a quarter of the seats in parliament through appointment, it has an effective veto over reforms.
The remaining amendments rejected by the parliament are the amendment to Section 60 (c) dealing with the eligibility for the presidency, stating that the president shall be selected from elected MPs, and the amendment to Section 59 (f), which bars non-citizens from becoming president or vice-president, as well as anyone with a spouse, “legitimate child,” or child’s spouse who holds foreign citizenship.
As a change to Section 59 (f), the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party sought to exclude just “one of the legitimate children or their spouses” from the section.
The constitutional amendment bill was proposed by the USDP.
Out of 633 MPs, 583 attended the parliamentary meeting and 50 were absent Thursday. Of 583 voters, 467 MPs were elected representatives, comprising 73.78 percent, while 166, or 26.22, were military appointees.
Before the vote, five MPs debated the bill. U Thein Zaw from the USDP said during the debate that the party submitted the bill to the parliament at the right time and under the right circumstances, urging the MPs to support the constitutional amendment bill.
Col Than Htike, a military MP in the parliament, argued against the amendments.
National League for Democracy MP U Win Myint demanded before the vote that the parliament record the party’s stance of sharing the USDP’s wish to amend the constitution, but did not agree with specific details of the reforms.
Thura U Shwe Mann, the Speaker of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, declared that the parliament put it on record.
After the session, NLD chairwoman Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told reporters she was not surprised with the result.
The amendments proposed by the USDP were not effective enough to help the country’s reforms, and voting against even such amendments indicate a lack of willingness for reform, she added.