Suu Kyi could be president, Myanmar officials say

AP

The nominees for Myanmar’s next president and two vice presidents will be revealed to parliament on March 17, an official said Monday, setting a clear timeline for the transition of power from a military-controlled government to democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s party.

Parliament chairman Mann Win Khaing Than announced Monday that the upper house, the lower House and the military will have to select one candidate each for the three posts before March 17.

But it remains unclear if Suu Kyi herself will be able to become president, although there are growing signs that her talks with the military to remove a constitutional hurdle blocking her path can be completed by March 17.

Once the three names are put before the 664-member parliament, all members will take a vote. The person with the largest number of votes will become president, and the other two will be vice presidents.

Given that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party has a majority in both houses of parliament, it is certain to get the president’s and one vice president’s post. The new president will then take office on April 1 after the current president’s term expires on March 31.

The NLD won a landslide victory in the Nov. 8 general elections. But she is barred from becoming president because of the Constitution’s Article 59 (f), which says anyone with a foreign spouse or children cannot hold the executive office. Suu Kyi’s late husband was British as are her two sons.

But she has been negotiating with commander-in-chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing on having the clause suspended. The clause can be legally scrapped only through a 75 percent plus one vote in Parliament. The military holds 25 percent of the nominated seats in parliament, which means the NLD cannot scrap the clause on its own. However, the clause can be suspended by a simple majority, but because all this is uncharted territory nobody is sure if that would be allowed.

In separate but identical broadcasts late Sunday, Sky Net and Myanmar National Television, both pro-government, said “positive results could come out on the negotiation for the suspension of the constitution Article 59 (f).”

“I think everything will be fine,” Kyaw Htwe, a senior member of the NLD, told reporters. “The negotiations will be positive for our leader Aung San Suu Kyi to become president.” Kyaw Htwe is also a member of parliament.

But Yan Myo Thein, a political analyst, advised caution.

“It is still too early to confirm that Suu Kyi will be among the presidential candidate,” he said. “Even the suspension and the constitutional amendment will take time. And we cannot really comment relying only on a short announcement on TV,” he said.

Suu Kyi has said previously that even if she doesn’t become the president she would run the country from behind the scenes. But clearly, the NLD would prefer that the 70-year-old Nobel peace laureate lead the country, having struggled almost all her adult life for it.

On Friday, a legal advisory committee consisting of experts and members of the lower house was launched, led by Shwe Mann, the former head of the military-tied Union Solidarity and Development Party. One of the few Suu Kyi allies in the defeated ruling party, Shwe Mann is believed to be supportive of a constitutional change.