Sun, Jun 15, 2014 - Page 4 News List

Panel’s vote bodes ill for Suu Kyi’s presidential bid

FAMILY TIES:A committee’s rejection of a constitutional amendment that would have allowed the Nobel Peace Prize winner to run next year dented her party’s chances

AP, YANGON, Myanmar

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, left, and Nepalese President Ram Baran Yadav shake hands at the Office of the President in Kathmandu, Nepal, yesterday.

Photo: AFP

A parliamentary committee has voted against changing a clause in Myanmar’s constitution that bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president, in a setback for her hopes of leading the Southeast Asian nation.

The clause bars anyone whose spouse or children are loyal to foreign countries from becoming president or vice president. Aung San Suu Kyi’s late husband and her two sons are British citizens.

If the recommendation is endorsed by the parliament, it is likely to have a significant impact on next year’s scheduled general election.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party is expected to mount a strong challenge, with a good possibility of winning, but without the Nobel Peace Prize laureate as a prospective president, its backers may flag in their support.

Twenty-six of the 31 members of the committee tasked with recommending changes voted against amending the clause. The decision by the committee last week was not publicized, but a member who did not want to be identified because he is not supposed to speak to the media confirmed the vote.

A final decision is subject to a vote of the full parliament. However, a change appears unlikely, since the committee members who rejected the amendment are legislators from the pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Party and the military, which hold an overwhelming majority of the legislative seats.

It is unclear when parliament is to take action on the recommendation.

Aung San Suu Kyi has said that the current constitution needs to be amended to meet democratic norms and to make elections free and fair. Her party has been holding rallies to gain public support and convince the military and the government to amend the constitution.

Nyan Win, a party spokesman, said it was more concerned with amending the clauses in the constitution that govern how changes can be made. If that can be done, he said, it will not be impossible to change other clauses.

The 2008 Burmese constitution was drawn up by the previous military regime to ensure its continuing influence in government. It gives the military a mandatory 25 percent of parliamentary seats, handing it veto power over any change in the constitution, which requires greater than 75 percent approval, followed by a nationwide referendum.

Aung San Suu Kyi has called on Burmese President Thein Sein and military commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing for discussions on amending the constitution, but neither has agreed to talk.

Parliament speaker Thura Shwe Mann, who is also from the pro-military faction and harbors presidential ambitions, said changes in the constitution must be completed six months before next year’s polls.

Since coming to office in 2011, Thein Sein has instituted political and economic reforms after almost five decades of army rule.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s party rejoined the electoral process after decades of government repression and won 43 of 44 seats it contested in by-elections in 2012.

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