Constitutional ‘suspension’ raised as possible Suu Kyi presidency fix

YANGON — A legislator in the pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has backed a proposal to use the next parliament session to “suspend” a constitutional article that blocks Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming the next president, media reports said Thursday.

“We have to submit a proposal [on the suspension] in the next parliament, and parliament will decide to do it if more than half of the MPs support the motion. Then we can elect her president,” USDP MP Thura U Aung Ko told the Myanmar Times.

Myanmar’s next Parliament session will start in January, dominated by MPs from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) that won almost 80 percent of the contested seats in the November 8 general election. The session will appoint three presidential candidates, one of whom will become president while the other two become vice presidents.

Thura U Aung Ko is the current head of the Judicial and Legal Affairs Complaints Committee. The USDP MP is known to be close to Lower House Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann who was dramatically dropped as USDP head in August, in part because of his close ties to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Article 59 (f) of the military-drafted constitution prohibits a Myanmar national with family members “owing allegiance to a foreign power” from becoming president, effectively blocking Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from the post as her two sons hold British passports.

Amendments to the constitution require the approval of 75 percent of the MPs, and can be blocked by the military which holds 25 percent of the seats in both houses by appointment.

The 2008 constitution also does not allow for the “suspending” of articles, which might pose an obstacle to the current push to bypass Article 59 (f), the Myanmar Times said.

The suspension proposal, however, has reportedly gained traction among the powerful military institution following the meeting on December 4 between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and former junta chief U Than Shwe.

At the meeting, U Than Shwe acknowledged that after her electoral win, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi “will be the future leader of Myanmar,” according to a Facebook post by U Than Shwe’s grandson who organised the talks.

Prior to the November 8 polls, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that if the NLD won she would lead the country “above the president.”

Peter Janssen

Peter Janssen

Peter Janssen is a journalist with 35 years experience in the Southeast Asian region. He was Bangkok bureau chief for DPA and worked for numerous publications including Time Magazine, Fortune, Newsweek, the Economist Intelligence Unit, The Banker and FDI magazines.
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