News / Asia

Myanmar Legislature Considers Proportional Representation

FILE - A general view of the Myanmar parliament in Naypyidaw.
FILE - A general view of the Myanmar parliament in Naypyidaw.
Aung Ye Maung Maung

The lower house of parliament in Myanmar, also known as Burma, has agreed to discuss a controversial proposal to switch to proportional representation for future elections.

The proportional representation system was first proposed by the National Democratic Force (NDF), a splinter faction of the main opposition National League for Democracy (NLD). The plan is also supported by the ruling party and military representatives in parliament.

NDF leader Khin Maung Swe Thursday said the idea will be an important step forward for the country.

"Only the PR system will make the political transition smooth," said Maung. "It will include not only eight major ethnic groups but all the small ethnic minorities and smaller political parties as well. We proposed it because if representatives of all parties are included the system will work better to achieve national unity and peace."

But the proposal is opposed by more than 40 MPs, including some representatives of ethnic minorities and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Critics of the plan say its proponents are mainly concerned about the possibility of an NLD landslide victory in the 2015 general elections.

Ethnic MP Ba Shin of Rakhine National Development Party warned the proposal could harm stability if enacted.

"[They are saying that] the PR system is important for the national unity," said Shin. "But we want to point out that the unity will be impaired if this system is imposed because ethnic peoples and their parties are opposing the PR system. This fact should be considered seriously as well as the principle of the majority rule and minority right."

The coalition supporting debate of the plan has enough votes to easily pass legislation over the objections of the opposition.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.

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