Myanmar’s parliament is to consider amending the country’s constitution — which currently bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president — ahead of crucial elections next year, an official said yesterday.
Aung San Suu Kyi is trying to change key sections of Myanmar’s charter ahead of next year’s polls, which are widely expected to be won by her National League for Democracy (NLD), if they are free and fair, after decades of disastrous military rule.
The move to consider constitutional reform was discussed during unprecedented talks between Burmese President Thein Sein and his political rivals, including Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as top army leadership and election officials.
“They agreed to discuss the issue of amending the constitution in parliament, according to the law,” presidential spokesman Ye Htut told reporters after the meeting in the capital, Naypyidaw.
The National League for Democracy has focused on altering a provision in the constitution that ensures the military in the former junta-ruled nation has a veto on any amendment to the charter.
It believes revising the clause would open the way for further changes to other constitutional provisions, including the ring-fenced proportion of soldiers in parliament and the effective prohibition on Aung San Suu Kyi leading the nation. Ye Htut did not elaborate on which elements of the constitution were up for debate.
As it stands, Aung San Suu Kyi is ineligible to become president because of a clause in the 2008 charter blocking anyone from leading the country whose spouse or children are overseas citizens. The Nobel laureate’s late husband was British, as are her two sons.
To alter the constitution, there needs to be support from a 75 percent majority in parliament, and as unelected soldiers make up a quarter of the legislature they have the last say on any changes.
Yesterday’s extraordinary talks — the first of their kind as the nation emerges from decades of outright military rule — saw Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi walk into the meeting together.
The discussions, which lasted for more than two hours, came a day after the White House said US President Barack Obama spoke to Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi about the elections, which are seen as a key test of democratic reforms under the quasi-civilian government.
Obama “underscored the need for an inclusive and credible process for conducting the 2015 elections” during telephone talks with the Burmese president, a White House statement said on Thursday.
The US leader also spoke to Aung San Suu Kyi about how Washington can “support efforts to promote tolerance, respect for diversity, and a more inclusive political environment,” it said.
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