RANGOON – Aung San Suu Kyi’s chances of becoming president dimmed yesterday after she lost her struggle to break the dominance of Burma’s military establishment.
Supporters of the democracy activist failed to muster enough votes, despite three days of debate in Naypyidaw, to pass an amendment that would remove a clause that is, in effect, a military veto on new legislation. The army will now almost certainly continue its dominance over politics into the next parliament.
Ms Suu Kyi, 70, a Nobel peace prize winner who spent 15 years as a political prisoner, is by far Burma’s most popular politician, and can expect to win an overwhelming victory in this year’s general election.
However, the prospects for her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), are hampered by the controversial constitution, which was drawn up by the junta before it relinquished power in 2011. One of its clauses, Article 59(f), bars from the presidency people with foreign children or spouses — widely regarded as having been devised to exclude Ms Suu Kyi, whose sons, Alexander and Kim, are American and British respectively. Other clauses state that 25 per cent of seats are reserved for members of the military, and that the constitution can be amended only with a parliamentary majority of more than 75 per cent. This means that there can be no change without the support of at least some in the armed forces.
“If we are engaging in a genuine democratic transition, this Article 59(f) should be totally scrapped,” Win Myint, an NLD MP, said during the debate.
Brigadier-General Tin San Naing, one of 166 military officers automatically given places in parliament, said the country was still in a state of transition and that “democratic practices are not mature enough yet. This is not the right time.”
Parliament rejected two amendments. The first would have reduced from 75 per cent to 70 per cent the proportion of MPs necessary to change the constitution; the second would have permitted Burmese whose children have foreign spouses to be elected as president. It would not have removed the ban on those with foreign children, so this in itself would not have opened the way for Ms Suu Kyi.
The new parliament will not replace the old one until February or March. In theory, if the NLD wins a landslide, the outgoing MPs could reconsider constitutional amendments and enact these before they leave office — leaving a possibility of a last chance for Ms Suu Kyi to lead the country.Show