Suu Kyi & coming Myanmarese President have no substantial role to play despite their party’s landslide win
Aung San Suu Kyi’s party scored a landslide victory (unofficial as of yet) in last Sunday’s general election in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, raising the concern over Suu Kyi’s presidency. The ruling party has declared to accept the results of the elections, paving way for a transition of power to a civilian government from a semi civilian one, which came to power replacing a total military regime.
The general election of Myanmar on November 8, 2015 has attracted many analyses from different international corners. It was the election fever that dominated everything last couple of months.
Myanmar election 2015
Around 323 independent candidates ran for the general election in Myanmar. Over 5,866 candidates ran the election under the banner of 92 different political parties. Out of these 92 parties, the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) were the two major rivals standing face to face against each other in the election.
The Noble Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was the main campaigner for the NLD, whereas the USDP was backed by the military of Myanmar; the same military that had been in power for decades until the transition to a semi civilian government under the USDP.
Suu Kyi cannot become the president
Despite her party’s landslide victory, Aung San Suu Kyi will not be able to become the president of her country. Although western and pro-Western media outlets are claiming Suu Kyi won most of the seats that were available for contest, the constitutional provisions bar Suu Kyi from becoming the president.
The constitution of Myanmar was drafted by the military. It guarantees that the unelected military representatives takes up 25% of the seats in the Assembly of Union (legislature of Myanmar) and holds a power to veto over any constitutional changes.
The Article 59F of this constitution has been blamed to be drafted intentionally in order to restrain Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming the president. The Article 59F provides that if someone’s legitimate child owes allegiance to a foreign power, the person (parent of the child) is disqualified for the presidency.
The provision of Article 59F covers Aung San Suu Kyi, as her two children are not Myanmar nationals and hold British passports. Therefore, even after the NLD’s (Suu Kyi’s party) landslide victory in the general election, there is no fortune for Suu Kyi to become the president of her country in 2016.
However, many supporters and partymen of Aung San Suu Kyi hope that this crushing victory for NLD (Suu Kyi’s party) in the general election will open her door for subsequent presidency in subsequent elections through amending the constitution, particularly changing the aforementioned Article 59F. In reality, this hope is bound to go astray.
Even if Suu Kyi’s party, which scored a landslide victory, moves ahead to amend the constitution in order to change Article 59F, the military representatives in the Assembly would block the attempt to change this clause by using their veto power. So, there is unlikely to be a fortune for Suu Kyi to become the president of her country in subsequent elections, atleast not in the next one.
Coming Myanmarese President has no substantial role to play
There is also no good fortune for Suu Kyi’s political party colleague, who, after NLD’s victory, will now become the president of Myanmar. Because, the ‘to-be’ president from Suu Kyi’s party would be bound to act under the direct influence of the military and would not be able to go beyond military’s will.
The power of the president in Myanmar is lesser than that of the head of the army. It is the head of the army who selects the key ministers, including ministers for defense, for home affairs and for border affairs. The president has no role in these selections.
To add to the dismay of the coming president from Suu Kyi’s party, the constitution cannot be changed without, as already mentioned earlier, military approval.
Therefore, the constitutional provisions and the greater power of the military within the Assembly of Union indicate that the military bloc within the Assembly has the power to push through legislation against the president’s wish. The coming president, thus, will have fewer roles to play in the capacity of a president.
Bahauddin Foizee is an international affairs analyst & columnist, focusing on greater Asia Pacific, Indian Ocean & Middle East geopolitics. Besides, he infrequently writes his perspectives on European affairs and worldwide deteriorating environmental conditions & refugee scenarios.