NAY PYI TAW — A vote in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw last week to suspend debate on a draft law that could have been used to impeach Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann has exposed sharp divisions in the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party over his ouster as its chairman.
MPs voted 264 to 235, with 12 abstentions, to suspend debate on the draft legislation for recalling members of parliament. The August 20 vote means debate on the issue is deferred until the next parliament convenes after the November 8 election.
The draft law provides for the Union Election Commission to initiate recall proceedings under Section 396 of the constitution if it receives a complaint from more than one percent of voters in an electorate.
The recall of Thura U Shwe Mann has been sought in a petition to the UEC from more than one percent of the voters in his Pyithu Huttaw elec- torate of Zeyathiri in Nay Pyi Taw.
The UEC had recommended that the draft law be enacted urgently when it submitted the proposed legislation to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw on August 13, the day of Thura U Shwe Mann’s dramatic ouster as USDP chairman.
After parliament resumed on August 18, the Speaker referred the draft to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw draft law committee and asked it to discuss the measure with political parties.
The draft was discussed by 19 parties, of which 13, including the National League for Democracy, told the committee they opposed the draft law. The rest, including the USDP, called for it to be enacted immediately.
The August 20 Pyidaungsu Hluttaw vote on the draft law followed a discussion involving 15 MPs, including some from the non-elected military bloc. Those opposed to the measure said the one percent threshold was too low and could cause instability in parliament.
The NLD’s U Win Myint said the threshold would cause “chaos” and could also affect national reconciliation and unity among ethnic parties.
A one percent threshold would make it be easy for an MP from one ethnic group to be the target of a complaint from another ethnic group, he said.
The USDP MPs who wanted the debate to proceed included U Hla Swe, who said that if the draft law was enacted it would serve as a check and balance on parliamentarians.
“MPs should not be afraid of getting complaints from eligible voters if they are really working for the voters’ interests,” he said.
Military MP Brigadier-General Tint San said voters should have the right to recall their MPs if they thought they were weak or not doing their duty. “This is a fair way to achieve checks and balances,” he said.
NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has described the one percent threshold as “ridiculous” and said it should be set at about 20 percent of constituents.
The validation of enabling laws under Section 396 has long been opposed by many MPs and is a source of contention between the Pyithu Hluttaw and the Amyotha Hluttaw.
The relevant provision of Section 396 could pose a threat to national unity, the joint bill committee said in a report tabled in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw on July 21. The committee said the one percent threshold for a recall was unacceptably low and could generate too many complaints against MPs that would be a waste of time to resolve.