panel deals blow to Suu Kyi's chances of becoming president
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[June 13, 2014]
By Aung Hla Tun
YANGON (Reuters) - Nobel laureate Aung San
Suu Kyi's hopes of becoming Myanmar's president next year have been
dealt a blow when a parliamentary committee voted not to change a
constitutional clause that bars her from the post, two of the panel
members said on Friday.
The committee tasked with recommending amendments opted to retain
the section that prevents anyone married to a foreigner or with
children of foreign citizenship from becoming head of state.
The two sources declined to be identified and did not say why the
proposal was rejected by 26 of the 31 panelists.
Most experts believe the clause, 59 (f), was written into the
military-drafted 2008 constitution specifically to sideline Suu Kyi,
who became a global icon for her fight against military rule, most
of it from house arrest.
Her late husband was British, as are her two sons.
"Only five of the 31 committee members voted in favor of amending
the section at the closed door meeting of the committee," said a
member who requested anonymity because the committee's affairs are
meant to be secret.
Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party have been
pushing for constitutional change ahead of next year's election,
mainly to reduce the political clout of the military, which ruled
Myanmar for 49 years until a nominally civilian government led by
retired generals took office in 2011.
The committee picked to assess amendments has only two NLD members
on it and is comprised mainly of lawmakers from the ruling Union
Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which was created from a
social movement of a similar name set up by the former junta.
The USDP has 14 people on the panel and seven members are serving
military officers appointed as lawmakers as part of a 25 percent
legislative quota allocated to the armed forces, a clause the NLD,
which suffered persecution by the former regime, wants to change.
Myanmar lawmakers are assessing changes to the constitution ahead of
next year's parliamentary election.
A vote in the bicameral legislature to change the constitution to
allow Suu Kyi to become president is still possible, although
political analysts say it is extremely unlikely it would be passed
because the military and its USDP allies dominate parliament.
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Her party, however, said it was not over yet.
"We can't say Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has no chance of becoming the
president until the union parliament approves it," said spokesman
and senior party official Nyan Win. Daw is an honorific in Myanmar.
"We need to wait till the committee submits its final suggestions at
Myanmar's constitution was crafted by the former junta as the basis
for the country's gradual transition to democracy. The semi-civilian
government has surprised the world with reforms that were
unthinkable under direct army control and managed to convince Suu
Kyi and the NLD to join parliament.
The United States suspended most sanctions in recognition of
Myanmar's sweeping changes, but still regards the constitution as
undemocratic. In January, congress passed a spending bill that
requires further reform, including a revised constitution, as a
prerequisite for the complete removal of sanctions.
(Writing By Jared Ferrie; Editing by Martin Petty and Nick Macfie)
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