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Myanmar lawmakers keep military in charge

June 26, 2015

Myanmar's parliament has voted against several constitutional amendments, guaranteeing that the military's veto power remains intact. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi cannot become president in an election this year.

Parlamentssitzung in Naypyidaw
Image: P. H. Kyaw/AFP/Getty Images

The vote concluded a three-day debate on proposed changes to the 2008 constitution, which bars Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi from seeking the presidency and gives the military an effective veto over constitutional amendments.

Speaking to reporters after the vote, Suu Kyi said, "I am not surprised with the result. This makes it very clear that the constitution can never be changed if the military representatives are opposed." She added that she didn't see the vote as a loss, since the result had been anticipated.

With an election likely to take place by November, Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy is expected to see heavy gains against the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party. However, no date has been set for the vote.

The last free general election saw the NLD win, but the then-ruling military junta ignored the results and kept Suu Kyi under house arrest and detention for a total of 15 years.

Progress is slow

Four years after President Thein Sein took office, the military has refused to relax its grip on parliament.

The junta-era constitution gives the military a mandatory 25 percent of parliamentary seats, handing it veto power over any change in the constitution, which requires greater than 75 percent approval.

The vote on Thursday rejected a proposal to change the share of ballots required to amend the constitution from over 75 percent to 70 percent.

Such a change would essentially have removed the veto power of the military. Many viewed the proposed amendment as key to Suu Kyi's chances for gaining eligibility for the presidency.

Brig. Gen. Tin San Naing said on Tuesday that the military's veto power helped ensure stability as the country moves away from military rule.

"Myanmar is in a democratic transition period," he said. "It has not reached its maturity in democratic practices to ensure peace and security in the country."

av/rc (AP, Reuters)