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Constitutional quirk sends defeated lawmakers back to parliament


Lawmakers in parliament. Photo: Mizzima

Lawmakers in parliament. Photo: Mizzima

Just days after the National League for Democracy clinched a historic election victory, Myanmar lawmakers elected in the flawed 2010 polls are due to resume their work on Monday and legislate for another two and a half months.

The peculiar arrangement, unique to the country, was dreamt up by the military drafters of the 2008 constitution. It has been criticised by Myanmar’s new leader-in-waiting Aung San Suu Kyi and raises questions over what decisions the outgoing ruling party will to try push through before they hand over power.

“This is the only constitution in the world where there is such a wide gap between an election and the forming of a new administration,” the NLD leader told reporters at a press conference on Nov. 5. 

“This is a matter of concern because … the whole picture might have changed completely (after elections), but still the present legislature will go on until the 31st of January at least.”

In most countries, parliament is dissolved immediately after the polls and reconvened by the winning parties, said Tin Maung Maung Than, a senior fellow with the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

“The system in Myanmar is pretty unusual. It also has not been put into practice yet,” he said, adding that the legal status of the lawmakers in the last parliament session is unclear and their decisions could be contested. 

“There could be complications if the majority party in the next parliament doesn’t like what this parliament has done and want to change what was legislated,” he told Myanmar Now. “But I don’t think they would push through just whatever it is they want.”

A number of important laws governing business and the economy, such as the Companies Act, are scheduled for discussion. Other legislative issues pertain to finance and banking sector and government budget. 

Khin Ma Ma Myo, executive director of the Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security Studies, voiced concerns over the military-linked Union Solidarity and Development Party’s intentions during the interim period.

“The retreating army can leave their stronghold filled with land mines,” she said during a public talk last Wednesday.

Those who will attend this parliament are old members of parliament whose five-year tenure have not yet ended, not the members of parliament who just won in the elections. So questions could be raised over who exactly the MPs who will attend next week’s parliament represent. 

CONTENTIOUS

The “Right of Recall” bill is a piece of contentious legislation that hit a snag last year but could come for a vote in this session. The law would allow for the removal of lawmakers facing recall petitions from at least one percent of their constituents. 

Some believe it was introduced to allow USDP leaders to undermine the ousted chairman Shwe Mann, who was engaged in a leadership struggle with President Thein Sein. 

“We will also discuss that bill again, which I think should be enacted into law,” said Hla Swe, a USDP lawmaker who lost his seat to his NLD rival on Nov. 8. 

USDP legislator Soe Win said the party would ensure the interim period runs smoothly, adding, “The whole transition process will take place in accord with the constitutional laws.”

Myat Nyana Soe, an NLD MP who was re-elected, said he doubted that the USDP-dominated chamber would take any major decisions. 

“I don’t think the ruling party will propose or legislate any controversial bills in this interim period that oppose the will of the majority of the public,” he said, adding that parliament would still be under speaker Shwe Mann, who has good relations with Suu Kyi.

The former USDP chair, who like many ruling party heavyweights lost his seat in the polls, is due to take part in talks with Suu Kyi, Thein Sein and Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing next week to discuss reconciliation and the formation of the next government.

Courtesy of Myanmar Now

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