Charter reform behind NLD poll boycott threat, say analysts


Photo: Mizzima

Photo: Mizzima

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi sparked controversy when she told Reuters newsagency in an interview on April 3 that National League for Democracy would not rule out a boycott of the general election due later this year if the constitution is not amended.

“We don’t think that boycotting the election is the best choice,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said when asked if the NLD would participate in the election with the constitution unchanged. “But we’re not ruling it out altogether,” she said. “We are leaving our options open.”

Political analysts and observers told Mizzima that the NLD leader raised the possibility of an election boycott to exert political pressure on the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party and President U Thein Sein over their apparent reluctance to amend the constitution.

“I think she planted a ticking time bomb for a speedy and substantial amendment of the constitution and expressed her thought of considering a boycott of the general election as a tactical line as part of the struggle,” said political analyst Than Soe Naing.

The NLD boycotted the 2010 general election as it claimed it would not be free and fair but it contested the 2012 by-elections, saying its objectives were amending the constitution, national reconciliation and internal peace and upholding the rule of law. The party triumphed, winning 43 of the 44 seats it contested in the by-election to fill 46 parliamentary vacancies. The NLD has 37 seats in the 440-seat Lower House, in which the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party holds 212 seats. The 2008 Constitution stipulates that 25 percent of the seats in parliament are held by appointed military representatives, who have an effective veto over charter change because it requires the support of more than 75 percent of parliamentarians.

Peace and Social Justice Organization executive director Dr Thaung Tun told Mizzima that he assumed that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD were frustrated by the delay in amending the constitution and the weakness in cooperation by the ruling circle in this regard.

However, President U Thein Sein and Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing have both said separately that they would not allow the 2015 general election to be derailed.

Than Soe Naing said there were three main reasons why the NLD had not ruled out an election boycott. He said they were that articles 436 and 59(f) of the charter were unlikely to be included in the Constitution Amendment Bill to be approved by parliament soon; the six-party talks were being delayed by President U Thein Sein and were unlikely to resolve the amendment issue; and the United States and other Western countries were emphasising the importance of the election and were weak in talking about amending the constitution.

Article 436 provides for military appointees to hold 25 percent of the seats in the nation’s parliaments and Article 59(f) makes Daw Aung San Suu Kyi ineligible to assume the presidency because family members are foreign citizens. Her two sons are British.

“I speculate that according to Daw Suu’s basic vision, an election without amending the constitution cannot be free and fair,” Than Soe Naing said. “In the meantime, the ruling party and government are trying to prolong their rule. Under these circumstances, there can be little hope of a free and fair election,” he said.

Political analyst Kyaw Lin Oo agreed that the NLD leader raised the possibility of an election boycott to exert pressure on the government because she wanted the constitution amended before the election.

The NLD has formed a party campaign committee and a central electoral roll scrutinising committee in the event it decides to contest the general election.

NLD central executive committee member and the chair of the central electoral roll scrutinising committee, U Tun Tun Hein, said that if the election could not be free and fair there was a likelihood it will be boycotted.

“But judging whether the election is free and fair depends on the party central executive committee’s decision. I have no authority to decide on it,” he said.


This Article first appeared in the April 23, 2015 edition of Mizzima Weekly.

Mizzima Weekly is available in print in Yangon through Innwa Bookstore and through online subscription at www.mzineplus.com  

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