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Analysis of the 2008 SPDC Constitution for Burma

By David C. Williams - Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Democracy  •  April 21, 2010

Burma’s ruling junta, the SPDC, has decided to hold elections in 2010 to choose a civilian government under the 2008 constitution, which was adopted by force and fraud.  Even if the elections are free and fair, the constitution will only allow for a partially civilian government rather than civilian rule.

International attention has focused most on the constitution’s mandate that the Tatmadaw will appoint 25% of the various legislative bodies.  But there’s a much bigger problem:  under the constitution, the Tatmadaw is not subject to civilian government, and it writes its own portfolio. It can do whatever it wants.

Williams’ analysis focuses on two outcomes of the 2008 SPDC constitution. The first is the power of the military under the constitution. This includes the autonomy of the Defence Services, the Tamadaw’s role as protectors, or rather, interpreters of the constitution, the military’s control over Home Affairs, and the Defence Service’s right to forcibly enlist citizens into militias. The second centers on the rights of ethnic minorities. Under the constitution, Burma’s ethnic minorities will not enjoy true federalism, with the Chief minister accountable to the central government rather than the citizens of the state. Further, the state governments will be very weak, as the central government possesses the power to void state law. Minorities will also be unlikely to have enough power in the upper house to influence legislation, nor be guaranteed that the military will.

Download the briefing paper here.

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This post is in: 2010 Elections, Law

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