Union Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann on Wednesday announced that a national referendum on a constitutional amendment will be held alongside the general elections slated for later this year.
Last week, the parliament voted to amend the wording of Constitutional Article 59(d), mandating that presidential candidates have knowledge of ‘defence’ rather than ‘military affairs’ as is the current requirement.
In accordance with Constitutional Article 436(a), the amendment must not only be passed by more than 75 percent of sitting MPs, but must also gain the approval of more than half of Burma’s voting population in a national referendum.
Speaking at the Union Parliament session on 1 July, Shwe Mann said the decision to hold the referendum parallel with the election was aimed at reducing time, resources and money in organising the polls.
“The Union Parliament Speaker will send a message to the Union Election Commission Chairman to propose facilitating a referendum to amend Constitution Article 59(d) alongside the multi-party elections planned for this year,” Shwe Mann announced in Wednesday’s parliamentary session.
Following the decision, political observers have pointed out that such a small constitutional change may not hold the attention of the Burmese public, and runs the risk of being considered a waste of national funds.
Aye Kyaw of the Open Myanmar Initiative said that holding the referendum and elections at the same time may create confusion among the Burmese public regarding polling procedures.
“The two polls have very different natures. In general elections, people vote to elect one MP among many candidates, but in a referendum, it’s a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote, so holding the two polls simultaneously may create some confusion,” he said.
The Union Election Commission tipped the 2015 elections as likely to take place around the end of October or beginning of November. A specific date is to be announced three months ahead of the polls.