Myan­mar blocks Suu Kyi’s path to pres­i­dency

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY NAN TIN HTWE

Myan­mar’s par­lia­ment Thurs­day dealt a body blow to Aung San Suu Kyi’s hopes of amend­ing a junta-era con­sti­tu­tion that bars her from the pres­i­dency be­fore land­mark elec­tions, vot­ing down a bill to end the mil­i­tary’s ef­fec­tive veto on char­ter change.

The vote, held af­ter three days of en­er­getic de­bate be­tween uni­formed sol­diers and elected MPs, saw par­lia­ment shoot down a draft amend­ment that would have loos­ened the stran­gle­hold.

Myan­mar’s par­lia­ment con­tin­ues to be dom­i­nated by the army and for­mer gen­er­als de­spite re­forms that ended decades of out­right junta rule in 2011.

Observers say the mil­i­tary, who tram­pled on dis­sent and laid waste to the econ­omy dur­ing their rule, is staunchly op­posed to any fur­ther re­duc­tion of its pow­ers.

The 436 amend­ment bill was “not en­acted,” par­lia­men­tary speaker Shwe Mann told the leg-

mil­i­tary’s

po­lit­i­cal is­la­ture, af­ter 388 law­mak­ers — or around 60 per­cent — voted in fa­vor of the change, be­low the thresh­old of 75 per­cent needed for it to pass.

The amend­ment was seen as a key to chang­ing fur­ther clauses.

The re­sult vir­tu­ally ex­tin­guishes Suu Kyi’s chances of the pres­i­dency at this stage be­cause of a pro­vi­sion ex­clud­ing those with for­eign chil­dren from the top of­fice. Her sons are Bri­tish.

Speak­ing di­rectly af­ter the re­sult Suu Kyi urged Myan­mar’s peo­ple not to “lose hope” af­ter the fail­ure to amend any ma­jor parts of the con­sti­tu­tion.

Strik­ing a note of de­fi­ance, she vowed the op­po­si­tion would not “back down” from elec­tions slated for Oc­to­ber or Novem­ber.

“From now on, we will fo­cus on the elec­tion,” she told re­porters.

The polls are set to be the first na­tional elec­tions to in­clude Suu Kyi’s Na­tional League for Democ­racy for a quar­ter of a cen­tury and the party is ex­pected to hoover up seats, if the vote is free and fair.

But with Suu Kyi barred from the top job and no ob­vi­ous sec­ond can­di­date within the NLD, observers pre­dict the party could end up sup­port­ing a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date out­side its ranks.

Mil­i­tary Stonewalling

Observers say the army is wed­ded to its per­ceived role as the pro­tec­tor of Myan­mar’s 2008 con­sti­tu­tion, which was drawn up un­der a for­mer mil­i­tary regime that kept Suu Kyi un­der lock and key for some 15 years.

The pro­vi­sion block­ing Suu Kyi’s route to the pres­i­dency was not up for de­bate in the draft bills be­fore par­lia­ment Thurs­day.

In­stead dis­cus­sions piv­oted on pro­pos­als to change clause 436, which de­mands that 75 per­cent of par­lia­men­tar­i­ans must vote for ma­jor con­sti­tu­tional changes, en­sur­ing that un­elected sol­diers have the fi­nal say.

Mil­i­tary MPs have lined up to ar­gue against the pro­posal, which would have re­duced the vot­ing thresh­old to 70 per­cent.

De­spite wide ex­pec­ta­tions that the bill would not pass, the leg­is­la­ture fell into si­lence as the re­sults were an­nounced, with sev­eral other pro­posed amend­ments also voted down.

Sev­eral se­nior MPs for the NLD, which gar­nered five mil­lion sig­na­tures in a pe­ti­tion on chang­ing 436 last year, ap­peared vis­i­bly up­set.

Bri­gadier Gen­eral Tin San Naing told re­porters ear­lier Thurs­day that the pro­posed change was “not suit­able” be­cause “our democ­racy is still in a nascent stage.”

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