Crafting Parliament in Myanmar's Disciplined Democracy (20112021). By Renaud Egreteau.

AuthorBertrand, Jacques

Crafting Parliament in Myanmar's Disciplined Democracy (20112021). By Renaud Egreteau. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2023. Hardcover: 320pp.

Because of the post-coup crisis in Myanmar, in which there appears to be very little prospect of the military junta withdrawing from power anytime soon, one might query the timeliness of a book that takes a relatively optimistic stance on the country's recent experiment with parliamentary democracy. But Renaud Egreteau reminds us that every iteration of a parliament in Myanmar reproduces certain trends from the past while opening up new forms of representation. Crafting Parliament in Myanmar's Disciplined Democracy closely scrutinizes the country's latest (and most interesting) experiment at representative parliamentary democracy, the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Assembly of the Union), as it existed between its formation in 2011 and its dissolution in 2021.

It can be difficult to understand the form and trajectory of Myanmar's historical parliaments through a comparative lens, and to some extent this book struggles to find the right theoretical hook. Instead, Egreteau chooses an eclectic approach. Engaging relatively older literature from the 1970s onwards, he situates the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw within the wider typological literature on parliaments of similar countries as well as Myanmar's past legislatures. By doing so, the book draws on a vast array of studies on representation and parliamentary functions as well as the challenges of creating legislatures in post-authoritarian settings. Although these are a useful set of conceptual tools, they do not completely allow the book to make a broad theoretical claim as to what made Myanmar's most recent parliament unique--or even why it emerged in the first place. Nevertheless, the book's main strength is Egreteau's conviction that the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw was not just a rubber-stamp institution. During the period under review, he contends, it performed many of the aspects that one might expect of parliaments in functional democracies: rigorous debate, scrutiny of issues and attempts to address policy challenges through solid legislation.

Crafting Parliament in Myanmar's Disciplined Democracy begins with a history of the parliaments that existed in Myanmar between independence and the 2010s, including the unicameral Pyithu Hluttaw (People's Assembly) that lasted from 1974 to 1988, and the earlier bicameral assembly composed of the Pyithu Hluttaw (Chamber of...

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