Myanmar’s president-elect Htin Kyaw on Tuesday nominated Aung San Suu Kyi for a top ministerial post in the incoming government in a bid to ensure that she holds a key post in the developing democracy.
A provision in Myanmar’s constitution, drafted in 2008 by the country’s former ruling military junta, prohibits her from becoming president.
The list of 18 candidates submitted by Htin Kyaw to parliament contains the names of technocrats, former senior government officials, six National League for Democracy (NLD) party loyalists, military officers, and two members of the outgoing Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), but does not specify who is being put forward for each portfolio, according to local media.
Unconfirmed reports, however, indicate that Htin Kyaw, a close aide to Aung San Suu Kyi, has put her forward as minister of foreign affairs and possibly as the head of three other ministries—education, electric power and energy, and the President’s Office.
“Members of parliament [MPs] can support or reject the list of names for 21 ministerial posts proposed by the president-elect during the parliamentary meeting on March 24,” said Mahn Win Khaing Than, speaker of the upper house of parliament, who read out the names on the list to lawmakers.
“Anyone who wants to reject a name must submit his proposal to the speaker of parliament with documents proving that the nominee is unqualified according to the constitution,” he said.
News of the list contradicts reports on Monday by local media that Aung San Suu Kyi would continue as chairwoman of the NLD, but not hold any government positions. It now appears she will relinquish her party position and join the cabinet.
Forfeiting her status
Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party overwhelmingly won national elections in November, has said she would run Myanmar from a position above the president to circumvent the provision in the constitution, which bars her from the nation’s top office because her two sons are foreign nationals, as was her late husband.
If lawmakers approve Aung San Suu Kyi for one or more posts when they make their selections on Thursday, she would have to forfeit her status as an MP and NLD chairwoman, said jurist Than Maung.
“According to the constitution and other laws, a minister or a vice minister shouldn’t be an MP,” he said. “If Aung San Suu Kyi is accepted as a minister, she has to quit being a lawmaker.”
Than Maung also pointed out that the constitution says political party members who become government ministers cannot hold a position of responsibility in their party during their ministerial term.
He noted that when outgoing President Thein Sein assumed his post five years ago, he transferred his power as chairman of the Union Solidarity and Development party (USDP) to Shwe Mann, former speaker of the lower house of parliament.
NLD spokesman Nyan Win said the members of the party’s Central Executive Committee have not yet discussed the issue, but would have to hold a meeting to select a new chairperson if lawmakers confirm Aung San Suu Kyi’s nomination for any ministerial post.
Balance of power
But Than Maung also said that as minister of foreign affairs, Aung San Suu Kyi could balance the power on the country’s 11-member National Defense and Security Council, a presidential advisory group dominated by the military.
According to the constitution, the council must include the president, two vice presidents, two parliamentary speakers, military commander-in-chief, vice military commander-in-chief, and the ministers of foreign affairs, home affairs, defense, and border affairs.
Myanmar’s powerful military, which by constitutional guarantee controls a quarter of the seats in parliament, also oversees three key security-related ministries—home affairs, defense, and border affairs.
“Three of the these ministers have to be from the military, but if Aung San Suu Kyi takes the foreign affairs minister position, the balance of power with 11 positions on the council could change,” he said.
Lieutenants-General Sein Win, Kyaw Swe and Ye Aung are the officers on the list of ministerial nominees who will take up the three ministries controlled by the ministry.
“The three nominees from military are middle-liners and not strangers to Aung San Suu Kyi because they have met with her,” said political commentator Yan Myo Thien.
Aung San Suu Kyi has long been at odds with the military, which opposed changes she wanted to make to the constitution that would have reduced its power in parliament and allowed her to become president.
“The relationship between the military and civilians will become better under Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership, but there will be even less possibility of amending the 2008 constitution,” Yan Myo Thien said.
Pe Myint, an ethnic Arakan writer who is editor-in-chief of a weekly political affairs journal and vice chairman of the Myanmar Press Council, has been confirmed on the list of nominees as being tapped to serve as information minister.
Kyaw Win, an NLD lawmaker who told RFA that he has been nominated to lead the Ministry of Planning and Finance, said that if selected, he would address corruption problems and not raise taxes.
Naing Thet Lwin an ethnic minority from the Mon National Party, has been confirmed among the list of candidates to become head of the newly created Ethnic Affairs Ministry.
“As the nominee for the ethnic affairs ministry post, I will be assigned my duties by the president,” he told RFA.
“I accepted the nomination for the appointment as ethnic affairs minister because I believe we can achieve peace if new government, ethnic groups and military collaborates with willingness, generosity and honesty.”
The NLD-led government will officially come into power on April 1.
Reported by Win Naung Toe, Thinn Thiri, Khin Khin Ei, Zin Mar Tun, Myo Thant Khine, Win Ko Ko Latt and Khet Mar for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.