Suu Kyi vows to be ‘above the president’ if party wins Myanmar poll

November 5, 2015 7:42 am


National League for Democracy (NLD) supporters rally during an election campaign in Yangon/AFP
National League for Democracy (NLD) supporters rally during an election campaign in Yangon/AFP
Yangon, Nov 5 – Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi Thursday declared she will be “above the president” and run the government if her party wins this weekend’s landmark election, in defiant comments addressing a current ban on her taking top office.

The former junta-ruled country goes to the polls on Sunday in elections which could see the army’s decades-long grip on power substantially loosened.

Suu Kyi has towered over Myanmar’s politics after a decades-long struggle for democracy and her party is expected to make major gains at Sunday’s polls if the vote is free and fair.

Yet under the military-scripted constitution, the 70-year-old is barred from running for the presidency by a clause believed to have been written specifically to thwart her bid for the country’s top office.

“I have said I am going to be above the president,” Suu Kyi said in bullish remarks to reporters ahead of Sunday’s vote, which her National League for Democracy (NLD) party hopes to sweep.

Asked to elaborate, she cryptically replied: “I have already made plans”.

“I will run the government and we will have a president who will work in accordance with the policies of the NLD,” she told reporters gathered on the lawn of her Yangon home, the same mansion she was confined to during years of house arrest by the former generals.

Her path to the presidency is blocked by a charter clause outlawing those with foreign-born offspring taking the top post. Her two sons have British passports — their late father was a British academic.

Many hope Sunday’s election will be the country’s freest and fairest for a generation but concerns abound in a country with a long history of the army stifling democracy.

Polls in 1990 swept by the NLD were ignored by the military, while a 2010 election was boycotted by Suu Kyi’s opposition over fraud fears.

Reforms by the military since then have seen a quasi-civilian government take charge and guide sweeping changes leading to this weekend’s election.

Suu Kyi’s comments on Thursday are likely to be seen as both a challenge to the army’s parliamentary dominance and a rallying cry to her supporters who view her as the fulcrum of Myanmar’s democracy struggle.

– Urges caution –

But the Nobel Peace Prize Winner also struck a note of caution over the reforms so far labelling them “a veneer”, while questioning the will of election officials to tackle irregularities.

Asked how vigilant she was to the possibility of poll fraud she said, if suspicions are raised “we will have to make a fuss about it.”

But she added it was important for her party to run a government of “national reconciliation” if the NLD wins, adding: “I do not believe in persecution or revenge.”

The NLD’s main rival is the incumbent Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) of President and former general Thein Sein, which is itself stacked with ex-military cadres.

Myanmar’s army also retains a 25 percent bloc of seats in parliament — gifted by the same controversial charter that bans Suu Kyi.
Myanmar President Thein Sein’s government has been widely praised for its raft of political and economic reforms, leading to the removal of most Western sanctions, but is increasingly coming under fire for backsliding on human rights issues
© AFP/File Ye Aung Thu

The NLD need 67 percent of seats to win an outright majority and beat down the challenge of any coalition between the USDP and the army. The USDP need only take around a third of seats to link up with the military bloc in parliament.

Army lawmakers essentially have a veto over major policy, including any changes to the constitution.

Observers say Suu Kyi could seek her own alliance with a compromise candidate for the presidency, which will be decided after the election in a complex process that could take several weeks.

Myanmar’s reform drive since 2011 has brought new freedoms to the nation’s long-suffering people — including a general easing of censorship and the release of many political prisoners.

The government has been rewarded with the roll back of many western sanctions presaging a flood of investment.

The United States hinted late Wednesday that more sanctions could be eased if Sunday’s poll is judged to be free and fair — specifically those barring US trade with Myanmar business elites with close links to the army.

Suu Kyi urged the international community not to get ahead of itself and called for a “healthy dose of scepticism” towards the polls.


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