For opposition party leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the path to becoming Burma’s president was always going to be an uphill battle, but a vote last week by a parliamentary committee deciding against a crucial amendment to the Constitution just made it that much steeper.
Set up in February, the parliamentary committee was to discuss reforms to Burma’s military-drafted 2008 Constitution, specifically pertaining to Article 59(f), which prohibits any citizen with foreign relatives from becoming president or vice president. Previously married to a British man and the mother of his two children, the National League of Democracy (NLD) leader is effectively barred from running for presidency in the 2015 elections.
According to Reuters, the committee voted last week — 26 out of 31 panelists – not to endorse any amendments to Article 59(f), and will provide this recommendation to the parliament. No reasons were given for the rejection.
But the NLD party has not lost hope. Speaking to Reuters, Nyan Win, NLD spokesman and senior party official, said this initial announcement does not automatically sound a death knell to Suu Kyi’s presidential aspirations.
“We can’t say Daw Aun San Suu Kyi has no chance of becoming president until the union parliament approves it,” Nyan Win said. “We need to wait till the committee submits its final suggestions at the parliament.”
Suu Kyi, for her part, contends that any changes made to the Constitution must come from the public – and presumably not from a committee that is majority stacked with panelists from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
“Whether or not I become the president in the future depends on the will of the people, their will with regard to amending the Constitution and their will with regard to whom they wish to choose as president,” Suu Kyi said Monday at the end of a four-day visit to Nepal, according to Associated Press.
She added that she and the NLD have been focusing their efforts in recent months on amending a clause that calls for more than 75 percent of the parliament to pass any constitutional changes. Article 436 is deemed undemocratic by the NLD as the Burmese military is allocated 25 percent of seats in the parliament – a matter also enshrined as a constitutional article – and therefore has an effective veto over any amendments.
“So we want to change it to make it possible for the majority of elected members of the legislature to change whichever part of the Constitution they should think is necessary,” Suu Kyi said.
For the past months, the NLD has been rallying nationwide for constitutional reform, specifically on changing Article 436. From Sagaing Division to Irrawaddy Division, thousands of supporters have turned up to show public support for the NLD and its platform of constitutional reform.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s popularity among Burmese is unparalleled, with her party winning the 1990 election by a landslide under her leadership. But the military did not allow the NLD to govern, and put Suu Kyi under house arrest for a total of 15 out of the next 21 years, before her most recent release in November 2010.