Burma’s New Constitution Privileges Soldiers above Civilians

By HTET AUNG Monday, September 7, 2009

For decades, politics in Burma has been in crisis and the eventual outcome is often violence and oppression. Subjected to extreme poverty, armed conflicts and natural disaster, the people, like it or not, approved a new constitution in 2008.

The average Burmese citizen probably expects life to be less oppressive under a new civilian government. However, there is no escaping the fact that Burma’s third constitution was designed by the junta to institutionalize its role in politics.

Born with the nation’s independence struggle and believing its role is to safeguard the country from disintegration—a conventional excuse by military leaders to claim legitimacy—the Burmese military has constructed a legal fortress in the new constitution, which it calls its “national political leadership role of the State.”

This is the heart of the military-designed constitution and exemplifies its distrust of civilian politicians, and the role of the public in forming a consensus in society.

In democratic theory, if a single party wins a majority of seats in parliament, a country can enjoy stability and development with the support of the majority of the population. It can also avoid a coalition form of government that can often create instability in politics.

But Burma’s constitution is different, and it is constructed to avoid the dominance of a single civilian party, which could provide a viable opposition to the military rulers.

Soldiers and the Making of Laws

Therefore, the constitution was built around a theory of “disciplined democracy” with 25 percent of the bicameral parliament comprised of military representatives—a maneuver that is intended to avoid another 1990-style election in which the opposition party won a landslide victory. continue

Election Watch

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