Survey says… Amend the Constitution! (Myanmar/Burma)

On Friday, according to The Irrawaddy, local authorities in Naypyitaw refused to give the National League for Democracy permission to conduct a poll of local support for amending the 2008 Constitution. The government reversed itself soon after and allowed the poll.

Not surprisingly, the NLD found overwhelming support for constitutional amendment. Out of the approximately 25,000 people who participated, 88% supported amendment, 8% favored rewriting the entire constitution, and the rest were neutral.

As The Irrawaddy notes, the poll’s methodology is questionable; it certainly would not merit publication in a peer-reviewed academic journal. Asking people to attend a polling station creates a self-selection bias in which residents who are more likely to agree with the NLD are also more likely to participate. There was no attempt at random sampling.

Naypyitaw itself is hardly representative of the entire country. However, that fact might bias against the NLD’s results; one would imagine that, as the seat of government and the military, Naypyitaw is less likely to be a stronghold of the NLD (although in the April 2012 by-elections the NLD did win several seats).

More important is which constitutional amendments people would support. The NLD has prioritized reducing the role of the military in politics and allowing Burmese with non-citizen dependents (specifically, Aung San Suu Kyi) to run for president. It’s far from clear if and to what extent this platform represents the preferences of the 88% who voted in favor of amendment, much less the rest of the country. In fact, there are many other parts of the constitution that would benefit from amendment, including the overly vague provisions on the powers of legislative committees.

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