I have a post for Tom Ginsburg’s new I-Connect Constitutional Law blog about the Myanmar Constitutional Tribunal impeachment saga. It’s basically just a summary of recent events for American constitutional law scholars who might not have followed news in Myanmar closely. Here is the link:
Category Archives: constitution
First of all, sorry for the lack of posts, despite the huge amount of law-related news from the Philippines and other parts of SEA. I was in Myanmar last month, and between a slow internet connection and being busy with meetings, I didn’t have much time to post. However, I did obtain a copy of the Constitutional Tribunal’s 2011 decisions and learned a few interesting things about the court.
Until I have time to write about that trip, here is a very in-depth article about the Thai Constitutional Court’s recent decision on a lesse majeste case. Elizabeth Fitzgerald tries to understand the court’s reasoning for dismissing the petitioner’s challenge against the constitutionality of the lesse majeste laws. Unfortunately, the court’s reasoning is still somewhat unclear after having read the article, but I guess that is Ms. Fitzgerald’s point.
I’ve published another article about Myanmar’s constitution for New Mandala, this time focused on the question of how much the constitution constrains political developments. I wrote the article in response to the many outcries that the country needs to amend its constitution to remove military involvement in politics before any genuine progress can be made. My point is simply that the text of the constitution doesn’t matter quite so much as how political actors want to utilize the constitution. New Mandala also posted a response to the article talking about how constitutional change occurs.
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!
Greg Lopez at the New Mandala blog points to a startling poll showing that over 70% (71.6% to be precise) of Malaysians would want to replace the Federal Constitution with the Quran. Lopez puts this in the context of an increasingly Islamicized Malaysia, although his conclusions are admittedly alarmist. It actually isn’t fairly unusually for Muslims to hold Islamic law in higher regard than their country’s constitution. Unlike secular law, Islamic law is religious law and inherently viewed as morally superior. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean the average Muslim approves each tenet of Islamic law, or even understand Shariah. In fact, if we look at the rest of the poll, we find evidence for this proposition. Overwhelming majorities of Malaysians support Islamic law, but very few have actually read the Quran, and even fewer claim to understand its verses. In short, we shouldn’t read too much into the 70% statistic as it might simply indicate that respondents want a more “moral” law, not the specific provisions of Shariah.
Wow, I almost forgot to post these on the blog. First, my article for the Australian Journal of Asian Law on Burma’s new constitution was finally published. Second, I wrote a brief article summarizing Burma’s constitutional debates for Tom Ginsburg’s Comparative Constitutions blog. In both, I argue that the new Constitutional Tribunal will likely help the government centralize control over local government bodies and help manage and update constitutional interpretations. I’m looking forward to seeing whether my predictions come true over the next few years.
Tushnet and Amar’s Global Perspectives on Constitutional Law is a slender volume, essentially a miniature comparative constitutional law textbook, almost a supplement to Jackson & Tushnet’s Documentary Supplement to Comparative Constitutional Law 2005 (University Casebooks). This book covers some topics that earlier textbook doesn’t such as campaign finance. Each chapter excerpts cases on the topic from various jurisdictions. Unfortunately, as is the case with many comparative law texts, each subjects covers only a few jurisdictions, so it’s difficult to know whether they’re really representative. Some of the notes are pretty useful and can serve as a guide to further sources.