YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — All nine judges on Myanmar's presidentially appointed Constitution Tribunal abruptly resigned Thursday after the lower house of parliament voted to impeach them in a standoff within Myanmar's nascent government.
The resignations were announced by President Thein Sein's office, state television reported Thursday night, after two-thirds of the lower house had voted earlier in the day for the judges' impeachment.
The dispute has been seen as demonstrating the maturation of Myanmar's democracy, as well as reflecting jockeying for power within the ruling party.
Thein Sein recently reshuffled his Cabinet in what was widely considered an effort to consolidate his power after initially coming to office in March 2011. He is a former general and his government is dominated by members of the military, which had ruled the country since a 1962 coup d'etat.
However, members of his own ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party led the effort against the tribunal he appointed, and the opposition was spearheaded by his former army colleague Thura Shwe Mann, speaker of the lower house. Thein Sein was prime minister in the former military regime, and Thura Shwe Mann third-ranking member of its ruling junta.
The tribunal itself was also headed by a former military general. Lawmakers had been angered that the tribunal had not granted its committees and commissions the legal status they sought. The duties of the tribunal, whose members were nominated by the president and two speakers of parliament, are to interpret the constitution and rule if laws conform to it.
Thura Shwe Mann had said the decision not to designate parliamentary bodies as state-level entities affected the ability of the lawmakers to carry out their work and harmed their reputations. Some 301 lower house MPs, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, signed a petition to impeach the tribunal because of its alleged incompetence in discharging its duties.
Thein Sein had urged parliament to resolve the dispute by amending the constitution rather than impeaching the tribunal members.