Tomorrow, Burma’s military government reconvene its final meeting and wrap up the writing of the constitution at the National Convention, which began nearly 18 years ago. Note that only 11% of the original MPs elected in 1990 are participating in the National Convention. State Peace and Development Council members and selected persons oversee National Convention and regulate it.
Using some articles from the The New Light of Myanmar (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) that outlined the ‘basic principles’ of the constitution being written at the National Convention in Nyaunghnapin, I created a graphics that show the basic skeleton of the Burmese government, if the referendum is passed. Some important things to note, as well: (1) All of the current divisions (e.g., Rangoon Division) will become ‘regions’, (2) A handful of townships, based on race (Naga, Danu, Pa-O, Palaung, Kokang, and Wa), in Shan State and one in Sagaing Division will form ‘self-administered zones’ which are under the authority of the state or region they are in.
The government, according to the constitution, will be separated among the executive, legislative and judiciary branches. Like the American constitution, the legislative branch will be split into two parliaments, one based on population and one with equal numbers of MPs from each state/region. The executive branch is similar to the American system, with a President, a vice-president below, and ministers, an attorney-general and etc. The judiciary branch consists of three primary courts, one for constitutional affairs (Constitutional Tribunal), one for military affairs (Courts Martial), and one for civilian affairs (the Supreme Court and its lower courts).
However, there are a several twists on the separation-of-power. It appears that the military-appointed and selected government staff will serve as the checks and balances between the branches.
Starting with the legislative branch, it will look approximately like this:
The Union Parliament (Pyidaungzu Hlutdaw) will be split into the People’s Parliament (Pyithu Hlutdaw) and the National Parliament (Amyotha Hlutdaw). Essentially, one-fourth of the seats in each parliament will be designated for military personnel, selected by the Defense Services’ Commander-in-Chief. In the National Parliament, 168 seats will be divided among the 14 regions and states, and 6 of those seats will be reserved for self-administering areas. The other 56 belong to the Armed Forces (with 4 MPs per state/region). The People’s Parliament, with the number of seats based on the each state’s or region’s population, will have a maximum of 330 seats. The other 110 (maximum) will belong to the military, and MPs will be chosen by the Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services.
The executive branch will look like this:
Note: C in C is Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services.
The President will hold the highest office in the land, and is elected indirectly through the Presidential Electoral College (sounds strikingly similar to the American version), which is divided into three groups: (1) National Parliament elected MPs, (2) People’s Parliament elected MPs, and (3) military-appointed MPs. Each group chooses one vice-president, and the college then votes for the President. A president has a term of 5 years, and 2 maximum terms.
The President then chooses ministers to form appropriate ministries during his or her term. He nominates them, asks for the Union Parliament’s approval (they cannot reject unless they have explicably justifiable reason and appoints them. However, the Defense Services’ Commander-in-Chief reserves the right to appoint 3 ministers from the military, for the Defense Services, Security/Home Affairs, and Border Affairs ministries. Those ministers need not resign from the military. The attorney-general, auditor-general and the Civil Service Board’s chairman are of equal status and are appointed by the President. The Civil Service Board regulates the civil service, and civil service members cannot serve in much of the government, unless they have resigned. There are no restrictions for military personnel.
The judiciary branch will look like this:
The judiciary branch is split in three, for constitutional, military and civilian affairs. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, but has no control nor influence over the Constitutional Tribunal and the Courts Martial. The Supreme Court Chief Justice is appointed by the President, and the President also appoints 7 to 11 associate justices.
There is a very significant twist, that the Armed Forces (Tatmadaw), especially the Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services, will have major powers in nominating and selecting MPs (actually called representatives) and ministers (from the executive). There is no doubt that the Armed Forces will play a major and legitimate consitutional role in the government. It’s interesting that members of the civil service are not allowed to participate in the government, while members of the Armed Forces are.
The Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma has an excellent report on the National Convention. It makes several important conclusions about the draft constitution:
- One-fourth of the seats in the Union Parliament are reserved for military personnel.
- ‘Disintegration of the union’ gives the Armed Forces power to stage a coup and take over the government.
- The President has executive privilege and there are no checks and balances on his power from the legislative and judiciary branches.
- No foreign troops can ever be deployed on Burmese soil.
- The President must have had 15 years of military experience, thus ruling out Aung San Suu Kyi. A President must have a Burmese citizen as a spouse and children living in Burma.
- Constitutional amendments require the military MPs’ approval.
Note: I made all of the graphics/charts on Microsoft Word 2007. Feel free to reproduce. If I have made mistakes, please contact me so that I can modify them and not mislead readers. Also, the constitution could change as the final session of the National Convention has not yet started, so my interpretation may be tentative.