Constitution of 1974


Constitution of 1974
   Independent Burma's second constitution, which enshrined the principles of socialism and revolutionary oneparty rule. Its preamble states: "We, the working people, firmly resolve that we shall . . . faithfully follow the leadership of the Burma Socialist Programme Party." When it was promulgated on January 3, 1974, the martial law Revolutionary Council was disbanded. The new basic law replaced the bicameral national legislature with a unicameral Pyithu Hluttaw ("People's Assembly"), the "highest organ of State power" (Article 41); elected legislatures known as People's Councils were also established on the state/division, township, and ward/village tract levels. Although elections on all levels were held every four years, the BSPP chose the candidates, and voters merely approved them. In practice, the Pyithu Hluttaw served as a rubber stamp for decisions made by the BSPP leadership, meeting briefly each year in March and October. Executive power was in the hands of two organs: the State Council, which ran the government when the legislature was not in session, and the Council of Ministers, which operated as a cabinet with functionally specific portfolios and was the highest administrative body. The chairman of the State Council was president of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma (Ne Win, 1974-1980; San Yu, 1981-1988).
   The 1974 Constitution established Mon, Arakan, and Chin States, in addition to the older Shan, Kachin, Karen, and Karenni (Kayah) States; in addition, seven divisions were created: Rangoon (Yangon), Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady), Pegu (Bago), Magwe (Magway), Sagaing, Mandalay, and Tenasserim (Tanintharyi). However, in this highly centralized governmental system, there were no differences in administration between the states and the divisions and no concession to autonomy for the ethnic minorities. Operating on the assumption that Burma was basically a homogeneous country, the constitution did not recognize the country's ethnic diversity, although Article 8 prohibited "the exploitation . . . of one national race by another," and Article 152 recognized the Burmese (Myanmar) language as the national language but conceded that "languages of the other national races may also be taught."
   Between 1971 and 1973 the Revolutionary Council carried out extensive "consultations" with people in all walks of life on the nature of the new constitution, and it was ratified in a nationwide referendum held December 15-31, 1973. Ninety percent of eligible voters who participated gave their support to the new basic law. If the Constitution of 1947 drew much of its inspiration from Westminster, with adaptations to local conditions, the 1974 Constitution was modeled on those of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, not only concerning one-party rule but also in viewing elections not as exercises of popular sovereignty but rather as ritualistic reaffirmations of state power.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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