Burma’s Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann on Thursday formed a 24-member parliamentary commission to study a proposed change to the country’s electoral system ahead of landmark elections in 2015.
Chaired by the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party’s (USDP) Tin Maung Oo, the commission is comprised of lawmakers from every party, including ethnic parties and Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD)—who oppose a move from the first-past-the-post system to proportional representation (PR)—as well as a military representative.
A senior NLD lawmaker said the party was taking part in the commission to study what is the appropriate electoral system for Burma, not to pave the way for a change to PR that was proposed by a minor party but has the support of the military-backed USDP.
“The study will either focus on the [current] fast-past-the-post system or proportional representation or a mixed system,” lawmaker Win Myint, a member of the NLD’s executive committee, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.
Shwe Mann set a deadline of 60 days—which may be extended if necessary—for the commission to report back to Parliament, and the lawmakers will now seek advice from experts on electoral systems.
There would be more debate in the Lower House on the issue after the commission delivers its report, said Win Myint, who is not on the commission.
The PR proposal has already been considered and approved by a committee of Upper House lawmakers, and was the subject of heated debate in the Lower House this week and last, before the speaker declared the formation of the new commission.
“The Lower House’s commission and the one in the Upper House are different in their focus,” Win Myint said, explaining that Upper House lawmakers only considered the merits of the PR system.
Doi Bu, an ethnic Kachin lawmaker from the Unity and Development Party of Kachin State, said the commission includes five USDP lawmakers, two from the NLD, a military representative and a lawmaker from each of the ethnic and smaller parties. It also includes four representatives from the Lower House’s Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission, said Doi Bu, who is a member of the commission.
The Shan Nationalities Development Party (SNDP), which boycotted discussions of the PR proposal in protest, will join the commission, according to SNDP lawmaker Ye Tun.
SNDP lawmaker Sai Maung Tin will sit on the commission, Ye Tun said, adding that “we selected our Shan representative so that we could contribute suggestions for the appropriate electoral system.”
The members of the newly formed commission met for the first time on Thursday afternoon to discuss how they would conduct their work.