Myanmar lawmakers unseat judges in charter row
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Myanmar's parliament today ousted nine constitutional court judges in the culmination of a long-running standoff that observers say exposed growing political rivalry within the regime.
Three-quarters of lower house lawmakers voted to impeach the members of the Constitutional Tribunal, whose duties including interpreting provisions under a controversial 2008 charter drawn up by the former junta, and vetting new laws to ensure they conform with the text.
The upper house voted for the impeachment last month.
The row erupted after the court, in response to a request by President Thein Sein to study the issue, issued an order in February which limited the power of parliamentary committees and commissions to summon ministers for questioning.
It was seen as the country's first major political crisis since decades of military rule ended last year, pitting the government against the parliament – and in particular lower house speaker Shwe Mann, a top regime figure and former general considered a possible contender to replace Thein Sein when he retires.
"Shwe Mann needs to distinguish himself from the military system and the old guard. I don't know if he's going to win or not but he's taking a lot of risk," said a Yangon-based analyst who did not want to be named.
Since taking office last year, former general Thein Sein has overseen a number of dramatic changes such as the release of hundreds of political prisoners and the election of
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament.
But progress has been slower on the legislative front, in part because of the time-consuming power struggle between the presidency and the parliament, observers say.
The constitutional court row "intruded into the agenda and delayed other things like the foreign investment law", said Aung Naing Oo, a Myanmar expert at the Vahu Development Institute.
The impeachment was supported by all political parties, including the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) – which has close ties to the military – as well as Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD).
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