Myan­mar's Suu Kyi un­likely to take for­mal role in new govern­ment

The Pak Banker - - 6BUSINESS -

Myan­mar democ­racy cham­pion Aung San Suu Kyi will con­trol the in­com­ing govern­ment of her Na­tional League for Democ­racy (NLD) through her po­si­tion as party leader, a se­nior of­fi­cial said, in­di­cat­ing she was un­likely to take a for­mal post in the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The No­bel peace prize lau­re­ate led the NLD to a land­slide win in a his­toric elec­tion in Novem­ber, but a con­sti­tu­tion drafted by the for­mer junta bars her from the pres­i­dency be­cause her two sons are Bri­tish cit­i­zens, as was her late hus­band. "Tak­ing po­si­tions is not that im­por­tant any more...In the United States there are many fa­mous law­mak­ers in the par­lia­ment who are very in­flu­en­tial, but they don't take any po­si­tion in the cab­i­net," Zaw Myint Maung, the NLD's spokesman and one of its lead­ers, told Reuters late on Sun­day. "It's the same here. She will lead the party, so she will lead the govern­ment formed by that party," said Zaw Myint Maung, in the most de­tailed re­marks from the NLD so far on how Suu Kyi plans to wield power.

Other top-level NLD politi­cians, in­clud­ing Win Htein, her con­fi­dant, have likened Suu Kyi's role to that of So­nia Gandhi, the Ital­ian-born widow of for­mer In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Ra­jiv Gandhi. As leader of the Congress party, she dom­i­nated the govern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh be­fore it fell from power in 2014, but held no min­is­te­rial po­si­tion.

NLD lead­ers have de­rided the con­sti­tu­tion as "ridicu­lous", and Suu Kyi has pledged to run the coun­try through a proxy pres­i­dent. Last week, the NLD-dom­i­nated par­lia­ment elected Htin Kyaw, a close friend and con­fi­dant of Suu Kyi, for that role, mak­ing him the first head of state since the 1960s who is not a serv­ing or re­cently re­tired se­nior mil­i­tary of­fi­cer. In the run-up to the Novem­ber poll, Suu Kyi had made clear she in­tended to lead the govern­ment re­gard­less of whether she was pres­i­dent, but said the So­nia Gandhi com­par­i­son was "not quite" ac­cu­rate. She has not elab­o­rated since. Myan­mar's con­sti­tu­tion ef­fec­tively bars govern­ment min­is­ters from party ac­tiv­i­ties, say­ing that if they be­long to a party, they "shall not take part in its party ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing the term of of­fice".

Zaw Myint Maung's re­marks ap­peared to con­tra­dict spec­u­la­tion by some di­plo­mats and lo­cal me­dia, who said Suu Kyi was poised to be­come the min­is­ter of for­eign affairs, a po­si­tion that would give her a seat on the na­tional de­fense and se­cu­rity coun­cil. On Mon­day, Htin Kyaw made his first pub­lic speech since be­ing elected, pledg­ing job se­cu­rity for pub­lic ser­vants even as the par­lia­ment cut the num­ber of min­istries by about a third to 21. He said the re­forms would save Myan­mar more than $4.1 mil­lion and those sav­ings would be spent on health­care, education and ru­ral de­vel­op­ment. "There is no rea­son for caus­ing un­em­ploy­ment if the govern­ment em­ploy­ees take jobs in ac­cor­dance with ex­ist­ing laws, rules and reg­u­la­tions," he said. He did not go into the de­tails.

Most mil­i­tary MPs, who hold a quar­ter of seats in the par­lia­ment, also voted in fa­vor of the changes, re­sults showed. "I think the mil­i­tary also un­der­stands that they (some min­istries) are not nec­es­sary. Their col­lab­o­ra­tion is an im­prove­ment in the par­lia­ment," said Aung Hlaing Win, a lower house NLD law­maker. De­spite pub­lic mes­sages of sup­port and col­lab­o­ra­tion, be­hind the scenes ten­sions be­tween the army and the NLD have sim­mered in the run-up to the han­dover of power. The mil­i­tary ques­tioned the NLD's pres­i­den­tial and vice pres­i­den­tial picks and openly con­fronted its MPs over a con­tro­ver­sial cop­per mine pro­ject last month.

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