Asia

Will Myanmar army let its hold on power be loosened?

Military members of parliament attend the union parliament session in Naypyidaw on 9 April 2015 Image copyright AFP

Myanmar's long-awaited bill to amend its constitution maintains a clause preventing opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president. But it slightly reduces the powers of the army. The BBC's Jonah Fisher in Yangon questions whether the military will allow its grip on political power to be loosened.

This parliamentary committee appears to have a dark sense of humour.

After nearly 18 months of public consultation and deliberation, it has proposed changes to the most notorious part of Myanmar's 2008 constitution, article 59F.

It is the paragraph that prevents opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president because her two sons hold British not Burmese passports.

'Tough but not impossible'

The committee's recommendation, however, is that the nationality restriction on the president's children should remain, but that those children are now allowed, if they choose, to marry a foreigner.

For Ms Suu Kyi that makes no difference.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The bill bars Ms Suu Kyi from running for president because her sons are foreign citizens. Her younger son, Kim Aris, is pictured (R) in this 2010 photo

The most significant proposal in the bill is that the Burmese army loses its effective veto on constitutional change.

At the moment amendments require a 75% vote in parliament, and then depending on the change, a referendum. With unelected military representatives taking up a quarter of the seats the army can block anything they don't like.

The proposal is for the bar for parliamentary approval to be lowered to 70%.

That would still make it very difficult to change the constitution without army support, but not impossible.

Elsewhere there is a nod to calls for power to be decentralised, with state parliaments given the power to nominate chief ministers, though they do still have to be approved by the president.

For any of this to be adopted, the army representatives in parliament will have to vote in favour. That remains a long shot.

To date there has been no indication that the Burmese military is ready to loosen its grip on political power.

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