An election held under Burma’s military drafted constitution will not be free or fair. That was the message of Burma’s opposition party, the National League for Democracy, when it met with civil society leaders the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society Group in Rangoon on Wednesday.
NLD executive committee member Tin Oo believes that the upcoming election will be more democratic than previous elections held by the former military junta.
However, he said the military’s grip on politics would ultimately undermine the upcoming vote.
“There are indications that the government will try to ensure more fairness in 2015 compared to previous polls. But the procedures have to be in accordance with the Constitution and as provisions in the Constitution are undemocratic, I do not assume the outcome will be fair.”
The NLD has been widely tipped to win the majority of seats contested in November. But under the present constitution, the military will be automatically allotted 25 percent of seats across both houses and will remain responsible for the appointment of key ministries.
Article 436 of Burma’s 2008 Constitution is among the sections proposed for amendment. This article dictates that a parliamentary majority of 75 percent is needed for the passing of any legislation. As 25 percent of parliamentary seats are reserved for military MPs,the army is effectively handed veto power. The deeply unpopular Article 436 has been the subject of much criticism for its undemocratic nature.
Article 59(f) is also highlighted as in need of change. Stating that any president or vice president: “shall he himself, one of the parents, the spouse, one of the legitimate children or their spouses not owe allegiance to a foreign power, not be subject of a foreign power or citizen of a foreign country.” Article 59(f) effectively disqualifies National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from running for presidential election due to the UK citizenship of her late husband and children, and also contains a provision that a presidential nominee must have military experience.
Last year a joint campaign saw the two organisations gain five million signatures on a petition demanding constitutional reform.
’88 leader Min Ko Naing said the two groups would continue to press for non-violent change.
“We, the advocates for constitutional reforms have no financial strength but what we have is truth on our side and therefore, we must keep pushing for change,” Min Ko Naing said.
“It has only been a few months since the [petition] campaign and I would not agree that it was fruitless just because there was no solid outcome immediately. [0:46] We must carry on until our goal is achieved and as we said, we must choose a non-violent path that the public can get behind. And for that, we have to take some time but there will be no setback or deferral.”
Burma’s President has given the green light for a referendum on constitutional reform to be held this year. But the ruling Union Development and Solidarity Party has said that changes would not be enacted until after the election.