A day before Myanmar goes to its fourth parliament polls in three decades, the country’s all powerful military has warned President U Win Myint with impeachment if he failed to ‘properly uphold constitutional responsibilities’.
That raised the spectre of a deadlock in the Pagoda Nation even if Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy ( NLD) won an expected clear majority.
Some were not ruling out a military takeover, if Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won too decisive a majority that could enable it push through critical amendments to drastically curb the military control in Myanmar.
Myanmar 1990 parliament polls led to a clean NLD sweep but the military refused to honor the verdict and hung on to power by force.
The 2010 poll was boycotted by NLD on grounds that the military-drafted 2008 Constitution gave too much power to the uniform.
But though the 2015 polls brought the NLD to power, it failed to bring necessary reforms and efforts to amend the Constitution to reduce the military’s powers failed.
The military, locally called Tatmadaw, now fears a huge NLD sweep may help it push through a series of amendments that would drastically curb its powers.
The Tatmadaw fired the first barrage earlier this week by hauling up the Union Election Commission (UEC), for alleged ‘ shortcomings’ and ‘wrong measures’ in the rundown to Sunday’s parliament election.
It also said the NLD government would have to be held accountable for the UEC’s mistakes because it was in power.
The military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing told a local media outlet that given the UEC’s mishandling of the election, he would be very wary about the election results this time.
On Wednesday, the Myanmar President’s Office rubbished the military for ‘inciting instability and causing public concern’ and violating the law and the 2008 Constitution.
Some said the military was trying to influence the poll outcome.
The President’s office also said the UEC was an independent body and was under no legal compulsion to answer to the government.
In a lengthy response on Thursday, the military rejected the President’s Office response.
In a statement, the military said the government was ignoring its responsibility for the UEC’s actions, insisting that the President can constitutionally appoint the electoral body members and impeach them.
“So, saying the government has nothing to do with the UEC’s failures is ignoring its responsibilities,” the military statement said.
It went on to say that government officials took oaths under the Constitution to honestly carry out their duties to the best of their abilities.
“It should be noted that the Constitution [provides for] the impeachment of the President and Vice President if he is deemed disqualified or not performing his responsibilities,” it added.
The military sought legitimacy for its obvious interference in the country’s “national politics”, saying it was in accordance with the Constitution, that designates the military as its guardian.
Lawyers said the spat between the military and the NLD government was ‘worrying’ and called upon them to work together to correct the UEC’s mistakes and reform the agency.
Blaming one another does not benefit anyone, including the people, they argued.
Political analyst Dr. Yan Myo Thein blamed the civil-military tussle on “the weakness of the charter’s provisions”.
” The Charter needs to have clear definitions. Both sides are interpreting it their own, intensifying the confrontations,” he said.
Yan Myo Thein argued that “it was undeniable that the UEC’s actions had not been satisfactory” in the rundown to the election.
“But in regards to this, the UEC must act in an accountable and responsible manner. And the union government should investigate the UEC’s actions as soon as possible.”
The NLD and the Tatmadaw appeared on the same page with the government’s handling of the Rohingya crisis and then the spiralling Rakhine insurgency.
But relations began to sour when the NLD brought a series of amendments to curb the military powers. They fell through because the NLD could garner the required 75 percent needed to push through an amendment.
But ever since then, the military has doubted NLD’s intent and worry a huge landslide it might win.
(Subir Bhaumik, a former BBC and Reuters journalist, is now editorial director at www.theeasternlink.com)