Myanmar's Suu Kyi: Change charter before polls

AP News
Posted: Sep 27, 2013 10:49 AM
Myanmar's Suu Kyi: Change charter before polls

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has sharpened her criticism of her country's incomplete transition to democracy, saying the next general election in 2015 cannot be fair unless the army-imposed constitution is amended.

Speaking to reporters Friday at a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of her National League for Democracy party, Suu Kyi said an unfair election would have consequences, but did not elaborate.

Her party considers the current constitution undemocratic because of clauses giving the military a substantial percentage of parliamentary seats and disqualifying Suu Kyi from running for president.

"If the constitution is not amended, the 2015 election cannot be free or fair. It might be free but it cannot be fair," Suu Kyi said. "An election held with an unfair constitution can never be fair. The unfair election will have consequences."

The NLD was founded in 1988 during a failed pro-democracy uprising. It resoundingly won a 1990 election but was deprived of power when the military nullified the results.

The party boycotted an 2010 election as undemocratic, but ran in by-elections in 2012 after changes were made in election laws. It won 43 of the 45 seats it contested in both houses of parliament, and is expected to make a strong showing in 2015.

Asked by a reporter if her party is focusing on changing a clause that bars her from becoming president, Suu Kyi said: "We are not complaining only about that clause. There are many clauses that are undemocratic."

The constitution favors the army with a mandatory allocation of one-quarter of the seats in parliament to military representatives appointed by the commander-in-chief, giving the military veto power over all major constitutional amendments and giving the army chief the right to appoint three key Cabinet posts concerning security matters.

A 109-member Constitution Review committee was formed in July to consider changes to the constitution before the 2015 elections.

An army coup instituted military rule in 1962, and parliamentary democracy was restored only after the 2010 election, though with the army retaining significant political power. President Thein Sein, who formerly served with the military regime, has instituted economic and political reforms, succeeding for the most part in getting Western nations to lift the sanctions they had imposed on the previous repressive government.

Asked if a consequence of an unfair election might be another coup, Suu Kyi said it is premature to say, but stressed that, "A system that is not based on fairness cannot be a democratic system. This will be a fake democracy."

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"How can you hold a fair democratic election with a fake democratic system?" she said.

Since her party rejoined mainstream politics and entered parliament, Suu Kyi has stressed that she holds no grudges against the army, pointing out that her own father, Gen. Aung San, was a military figure who led the country to independence from Britain. Her conciliatory statements also stress that the army has a crucial role to play in national reconciliation.

On Friday, however, she indicated that her attitude may be falling on deaf ears.

Asked if she is happy with the military cooperation, she said: "Cooperation between the military and civilian political forces is a crucial foundation for national reconciliation. However, I am not satisfied because there is almost no contact with the army until now. More contact is needed for better understanding from where we can hold negotiations."