22 October 2019
Aung San Suu Kyi speaks to media about Sunday's elections at her home in Yangon on Thursday. Photo: Reuters
Aung San Suu Kyi speaks to media about Sunday's elections at her home in Yangon on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi: I’ll be above president in new government

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said she would be “above the president” if her party wins a historic election on Nov. 8, defying a constitutional ban on becoming president herself.

Suu Kyi’s remarks could complicate her already fraught relations with Myanmar’s military, which drafted the 2008 constitution to preserve its power and effectively exclude her from leading the country, Reuters said.

Her National League for Democracy (NLD) is the frontrunner in the first general election since a semi-civilian government took power in 2011 after nearly 50 years of military dictatorship.

“If we win, and the NLD forms a government, I will be above the president. It’s a very simple message,” a relaxed and smiling Suu Kyi told reporters at her lakeside home in Yangon.

When asked if this arrangement violated the constitution, she replied: “No. The constitution says nothing about somebody being above the president.”

The constitution, however, states that the president “takes precedence over all other persons” in Myanmar.

Zaw Htay, a senior official at the President’s Office, told Reuters that Suu Kyi’s comments were, “against the constitutional provision”.

The constitution also reserves a quarter of all parliamentary seats for the military and bars presidential candidates with foreign spouses or children.

Suu Kyi had two sons with a late British academic.

“While the constitution is far from perfect, and understandably perceived as a flawed document, it still serves as the basis for Myanmar’s current political system, including the elections this weekend,” said Nyantha Maw Lin, managing director at political consultancy Vriens & Partners in Yangon.

Suu Kyi said the NLD had already chosen someone who was prepared to act as president, but would not say who it was.

According to speculation in Myanmar’s media, likely candidates include the speaker of lower house, an aging NLD party patron and even Suu Kyi’s personal physician.

The United States declined specific comment on Suu Kyi’s remarks. It has welcomed reforms in Myanmar but expressed concerns about the existing constitution.

“There are many hypothetical scenarios, and we do not want to prejudge any outcomes,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

He stressed the importance of the election being as credible, transparent, and inclusive as possible.

Suu Kyi said reports of fraud, intimidation and irregularities in advance voting had marred what many people hope will be Myanmar’s first credible election since 1990, which the NLD won by a landslide.

– Contact us at [email protected]