Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy is taken by surprise, by a new law introduced by the outgoing military-backed government. The latter has circulated a bill in parliament that could swing the balance of power in the crucial National Defence and Security Council further in favor of the Tatmadaw (military).
Lawmakers in Myanmar said yesterday the proposed bill, which was circulated among MPs in the upper house on December 21, would strip the president of his voting rights in the 11-member council unless it was deadlocked.
The council, which has extensive powers over defense and security issues, comprises 11 members – the president, two vice presidents, two parliamentary speakers, the commander-in-chief, vice commander-in-chief, and the ministers for defense, home affairs, border affairs and foreign affairs.
Given the constitutional allocation to the military of three ministries – defense, home affairs and border affairs – and that the Tatmadaw will appoint one of the two vice presidents, the council under the new NLD-led government will have a pro-military majority with six members.
It is obvious that while the military backed government from the USDP had lost the election it is not calling it quits yet and would like to make sure that the grip of military is not softened any time soon.
Note that the Section 10(a) in the original law, which covers the formation of the 11-member council, does not prevent the president from voting in its meetings, but the newly circulated draft would remove his or her right, except in circumstances where the council is deadlocked. Chapter XI of the constitution grants the National Defense and Security Council (NDSC) powers to impose martial law, disband parliament and rule directly, but only if the president declares a state of emergency. And it provides a legal channel for the military to reimpose direct military rule,
This could affect the powers of the next president to declare a state of emergency. The bill follows controversy over the outgoing government’s tabling of a separate bill that would grant immunity for life for the president from prosecution for acts related to his time in office.
Since the NDSC has vast power, the new bill if passed in the outgoing parliament may become the Trojan Horse in Myanmar politics in coming days. Just stay tuned to see the developments as they unfold in the next few months.