Myanmar parliament head rules out charter change

AP News
Posted: Nov 18, 2014 7:18 AM

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — The influential speaker of Myanmar's parliament said Tuesday the military-drafted constitution that bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president will not be changed before next year's general election.

Shwe Mann told reporters in the capital, Naypyitaw, that the current parliament will review constitution amendment suggestions and hold a referendum in May to change some clauses, but it is the responsibility of the parliament that emerges after the 2015 polls to amend the charter.

He did not clarify why he believed there could be no pre-election change, and whether he was just expressing his personal opinion. Initial efforts to amend the constitution have fallen short, however.

The charter is widely viewed as undemocratic for allotting the military 25 percent of parliament's seats along with other special political powers.

Shwe Mann and Suu Kyi have both declared their interest in becoming president. Shwe Mann, like current President Thein Sein, is a member of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party and served with the previous ruling junta. Thein Sein indicated last year that he does not intend to run for a second term.

President Obama, in telephone conversations with Thein Sein and Suu Kyi before visiting Myanmar last week for a series of regional meetings, underscored the need for a credible and inclusive process for holding next year's elections, according to the White House. The clause affecting Suu Kyi bars anyone whose spouse or children are loyal to foreign countries from becoming president or vice president. Suu Kyi's two sons are British citizens, as was her late husband.

Stephen Moore

Myanmar emerged in 2011 from almost five decades of repressive military rule with the installation of an elected though army-dominated government. Thein Sein won praise — and the lifting of punitive sanctions by the U.S. and others — for initiating reforms, but critics say the transition toward democracy has stalled.

It is widely believed that Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy stands a good chance of topping next year's polls. But a parliamentary committee in June voted against changing the clause that bars Suu Kyi from becoming president.