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The National League for Democracy (NLD) and 88 Generation Peace and Open Society (88GPOS) on Tuesday handed over a petition to parliament with nearly five million signatures calling for an amendment to Article 436 of the Burmese Constitution.
NLD spokesperson Han Thar Myint said the opposition party and 88GPOS members had conducted a campaign launched at the end of May and concluded on 19 July in more than 300 townships across the country, and had collected 4,953,093 signatures. He said the petition represented not only their supporters but people from all sectors.
“We want to convince the government in power and the military that it is not only the NLD that wants to change the Constitution, but all people in the country,” he told DVB on Thursday.
The NLD says it has enough public support for amending Article 436, which stipulates that any constitutional amendment requires the approval of 75 percent of parliament. The two groups say that the clause is undemocratic because it provides the military – which is appointed 25 percent of parliamentary seats – veto power on any proposed amendments.
Han Thar Myint confirmed that the petition was filed with parliamentary House Speaker Shwe Mann on Tuesday.
At a press conference, House Speaker Shwe Mann, who is also chairman of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, offered unexpected encouragement for the NLD’s constitutional reform campaign.
“The parliament represents the people’s voice, and it respects the people’s wishes,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “The parliament shares the same hopes as the people. This is relevant to constitutional change. Parliament listens to the people, and that could have significance when it comes to constitutional reform.”
In late June, NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi reiterated how the Constitution, as it currently stands, allows the military an inordinate amount of power.
“If we don’t change 436, it means that the military has virtual veto power over what can or cannot be changed within the Constitution, and I think it should be the elected representatives of the people who decide whether or not the Constitution should be changed,” she was quoted by Reuters as saying.
Amending Article 436 would also open the door to amending other constitutional articles, particularly one that directly concerns Suu Kyi’s ability to run for president in next year’s general elections — Article 59(f), which stipulates that anyone whose spouse or children are foreign-born is prohibited to run for president or vice president. Suu Kyi was married to a British national and has two children by him.
But Suu Kyi said that her party’s focus has always been on Article 436.
“We were never focused on 59(f). It was others who were focused on it,” she said. “We always knew that the key one was 436.”