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Burma’s Union Parliament on Friday approved a bill amending the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Law [Union Parliament Law], which affects voting protocol among Union Parliament members. The amendment effectively empowers the parliament’s speaker to choose a voting method – i.e. show of hands, rising vote or computerised vote – for adopting bills in the legislative body.
The voting method employed to approve the legislation has not yet been confirmed. Lawmakers have told DVB that the bill was approved on 17 January despite objections from several MPs. Powers granted to the speaker by the new bill were informally used before it’s passage, but until now they were not legally enshrined.
Pe Than, a lower house representative from Arakan State’s Myebon township said the privilege could allow parliament’s speakers to manipulate lawmakers’ votes, as has been the case in the past.
“For example; the Bill Committee, when seeking a decision from lawmakers, would ask a leading question,” said Pe Than. He explained that depending on the issue, the speaker might choose to say, “Anyone who wishes to object to the Bill Committee’s decision please rise,” which led to some members withholding their objections out of either fear or conformity, if no one else was seen standing.
“But there are times,” he said, “when necessary procedures are adopted… because of leading questions, as the parliament speaker is more insightful than an ordinary lawmaker and can lead us in the right direction.”
Pe Than said that the Parliament’s ‘anonymous’ computerised voting system, which is the most commonly used, is also flawed, claiming that the system is not secure enough to ensure a confidential vote.
“The computer panel shows a green light visible to others when we vote ‘yes’, and a red light for ‘no’. Also, we know the people in the control room can see who voted for what,” he said.
“We would like to suggest not having the lights on the panel – to conceal the votes – so lawmakers can vote as they really prefer, without having to be afraid of anyone.”