Amendments an effort to clip the military’s wings . . .
Myanmar’s Constitutional Amendment Committee, a parliamentary body, submitted two constitutional amendment bills today that would reduce the role of the military and commander-in-chief in the country’s government. The two bills contain a total of 114 amendments, including reducing the proportion of military representation in parliament and changing the requirements for passing constitutional amendments. Analysts say that the move will likely worsen the feud between the military and the governing National League for Democracy (NLD) party. The military has stated that it will not support the amendments.
Military as powerbroker . . .
Myanmar’s political reforms began in 2010, when the civilian government replaced military rule. Political freedoms have expanded gradually, as the government abolished the public gathering ban, released political prisoners, and allowed the NLD, an opposition party at the time, to run for election. Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD’s leader, also improved her relations with the military, paving the way for establishing a government in 2016. While Suu Kyi’s rise to power was widely seen as a pivotal moment for the country’s democratization, the military retained a substantial amount of influence over the country’s political system. For instance, under the existing constitution, the military can handpick officers to fill 25 per cent of all parliamentary seats and has de facto veto powers over any constitutional amendments.
Looking ahead to November election . . .
Myanmar is holding a general election in November, and Suu Kyi’s NDL finds itself in a precarious position given its worsening relations with the military. Professor Kei Nemoto of Sophia University in Japan told Nikkei that while the constitutional amendment is essential for the country’s democratization process, it might strengthen the military’s backlash against the NLD. While it remains to be seen how the constitutional amendment will play out in parliamentary, civil-military relations will be a key issue in the upcoming election and could decide the fate of Myanmar’s delicate democracy.