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New reports point the way for parliamentary reform

Two research reports on the status of parliamentary development in Myanmar were launched by The Asia Foundation (TAF) in Yangon on 30 June 2017.

The first report, ‘Parliamentary Development in Myanmar: An Overview of the Union Parliament, 2011-2106’, written by political scientist Dr Renaud Egreteau, reviews the workings and legislative performance of the Union Parliament since 2011, with comparative discussion on the sociological profile and parliamentary practices and mechanisms of the two legislatures elected in 2010 and 2015.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Egreteau stated this period ‘has been a great leap forward’ in Myanmar’s return to parliamentary democracy. Under the leadership of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP, 2011 – 2016) and then the National League for Democracy (NLD), the bicameral Union legislature has been (re)formed and new legislation passed.

However, despite this rapid success, the current Parliament faces challenges in effectively performing the three core roles of lawmaking, representation and oversight.

The report notes that long-term success of democratisation requires laws to improve civil liberties as well as mechanisms to ensure the implementation of new legislation. Elected members need to establish regular, direct linkages with their constituents. While the newly introduced Pyidaungsu Hlutaw-managed Constituency Development Fund (CDF) provides a valuable mechanism for parliamentarians to connect with their constituents, more is needed to ensure constituents are informed and able to voice their views. Greater parliamentary oversight and scrutiny of government authorities and the public sector are needed particularly in relation to public expenditure and financial accountability.

The report recommends ways of improving the Union parliament, parliamentary administration and the Union government. Amongst these recommendations is a call for a more gender-balanced representation in both the parliament and parliamentary administration.

Participation of women MPs is the focus of the second report, Women’s Political Participation in Myanmar: Experiences of Women Parliamentarians 2011–2016, researched by TAF in partnership with Phan Tee Eain. Written by Shwe Shwe Sein Latt, Kim N.B Ninh, Mi Ki Kyaw Myint and Susan Lee, the report identifies issues, experiences and challenges that women parliamentarians have faced since 2011 to 2016.

At the launch, Mi Ki Kyaw Myint shared the critical role of women’s participation and the role of women leadership in parliament. Firstly, she stated the executive summary and history background of women political participations. Under USDP government, only 6% of women were elected in Phyidongsu Hluttaw, but female representation more than doubled to 13.3% after 2015 election.

Secondly, she discussed life and work as a Parliamentarian and the gender-based discrimination in Parliament. A major challenge for most women parliamentarians is that they do not have a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of an elected representative and lack opportunities for capacity building. Many representatives experience gender-based discrimination especially from government employees and male representatives, including being excluded from male-dominated discussions on policy.

Thirdly, she spoke about women’s leadership role in Hluttaw.   Most of elected representatives were reluctant to take a leadership role due to their perceived lack of confidence and limited technical skills, which prevented them from becoming a committee chair. The report recommends that all elected women should be confident of themselves. On the technical side, they need to study law and they should get more training and skill development in technical areas such as legislative drafting and budgeting. In addition, public speaking skills and communication skills is a must.

 

Photo credit: Mizzima media

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