A constitutional amendment already?

It seems Burma’s new politicians are in a mood for tinkering with the 2008 Constitution. Members of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party have proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow government MPs to serve concurrently in the Hluttaw and in the executive. According to Irrawaddy, the current push is being driven by USDP hardliners, including ex Brig-Gen Thein Zaw, ex Col Aung Thaung, ex Maj-Gen Khin Aung Myint, currently the speaker of the Upper House and of the combined Union Parliament, and Zaw Myint Pe.

I’m actually a bit surprised that this is the first constitutional amendment proposal that seems to have serious backing. After all, the prohibition on MPs serving in government is pretty clear and unambiguous in the constitution. If key stakeholders had not wanted it, why didn’t they lobby to change it before the elections? One possibility is that this is a tactical move geared at reducing the number of seats contested in by-elections later this year. As it currently stands, there are 70 constituencies now open because of appointments to the executive branch. Some observers view these elections as an opportunity for Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy to join the government. As such, the amendment might simply be an attempt by hardliners to forestall that possibility. Still, it’s remarkable that all of this is playing out in the language of legislative and constitutional change!

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