By KYAW LIN HTOON | FRONTIER
YANGON — About a year before the 2015 general election that swept the party to power, senior members of the National League for Democracy toured the country calling for changes to the military-drafted 2008 constitution.
The party has been relatively quiet on the issue since it took office more than two years ago, but speaking at the NLD congress held in Yangon last week, a senior member said that it remains a priority.
“Since democracy is very important to our people, we need a constitution that is appropriate for a democratic country. That’s our goal,” said U Nyan Win, an NLD central executive committee member. He was speaking on the second day of the congress, which took place at Yangon’s Myanmar Convention Centre on June 23 and 24.
Nyan Win said the aim was not to antagonise the Tatmadaw, which has fiercely defended the charter, but to ensure that the country is on a path towards genuine democracy, adding that it was not surprising that the Tatmadaw and NLD have different viewpoints on the issue.
“It is natural that the Tatmadaw will want to protect it, and we want to amend it because we want it to be a real democratic constitution,” he said.
Nyan Win said the party has highlighted 168 sections of the constitution that should be changed.
“We are always trying different things to change it,” he said. “We will keep on working on this until we can amend the constitution completely.”
The NLD has long advocated for changes to the charter, which guarantees the military a role in Myanmar’s politics by ensuring them a quarter of all parliamentary seats, and control of three key ministries, namely border affairs, defense and home affairs. It also bars State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president because her late husband, academic Mr Michael Aris, and two sons hold British citizenship.
Article 436 of the charter stipulates that any changes to the constitution must be supported by 75 percent of the parliament.
A vote in the 664-member Pyidaungsu Hluttaw in June 2015 to lower the threshold to 70 percent was defeated after 66.55 percent of the 583 parliamentarians at the joint sitting supported the proposal.
Dr Zaw Myint Maung, vice chairman (2) of the NLD, said that it might be possible for the constitution to be amended after a truly nationwide ceasefire has been reached.
“This would be a way of solving political problems through a political solution,” he said.
More than 1,000 members of the NLD attended the two-day congress, in which the party established five priorities: to support the NLD’s ambitions of rule of law, social economic development and national reconciliation; to amend the constitution; to win a by-election due to take place later this year; to win the 2020 general election; and to support the NLD in implementing its policies.
At the congress, the NLD also voted to increase the number of CEC members from 15 to 21, in order to strengthen the party. It also formed an “auxiliary” CEC to support the party’s main body.
Responding to criticism of the NLD government’s performance, including the lack of constitutional reform, Zaw Myint Maung said that such comments were expected and they would welcome “criticisms if [they are] constructive”.