'Suu Kyi Won Because of Father'

The leader of Burma's ruling party says Aung San Suu Kyi's election victory stemmed from her father's popularity.
2012-04-04
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A vendor (R) sells posters of Burma's independence hero General Aung San and his daughter Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon, Dec. 13, 2011.
AFP

Burma's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi rode on her father's popularity to steer her National League for Democracy (NLD) party to victory in recent parliamentary by-elections, the head of the country's dominant ruling party said Wednesday.

In an interview with RFA's Burmese service, Htay Oo, the leader of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), also defended the country's pro-military constitution and said it may be premature for Aung San Suu Kyi to push for any amendments to the charter in parliament.

The military-backed USDP, which has an overwhelming majority in parliament, was thrashed in the elections, winning only one seat in Sunday's closely watched polls compared with the NLD's 43 seats. 

Asked whether the USDP lost because the people disliked the ruling party, most of whose leaders were generals in the brutal military junta that ruled the country for decades, Htay Oo said the vote reflected people's perceptions.

"The voting was based on what people think they know, rather than whether they love or hate the USDP party," he said.

When asked what propelled Aung San Suu Kyi's and her NLD's victory in the by-elections, he said, "I think [it was] the popularity of the party leader Daw [honorific] Aung San Suu Kyi. This is the main factor."

"We all know General Aung San, the leader who is respected by the whole nation. Since Aung San Suu Kyi is his daughter, people will know her as associated with General Aung San. I think that's it."

General Aung San, the founder of modern Burma, was assassinated during Burma's transition period in July 1947, just six months before independence. Aung San Suu Kyi was only two years old at the time.

Her father remains popular among Burmese as an independence hero.
 
Constitution

Htay Oo also expressed reservation over Aung San Suu Kyi's plans to push for amendments to the country's constitution, which was written in 2008 by the then-ruling military junta and allows military dominance in politics.

He said the constitution was framed after extensive consultations and it has been implemented for only about a year.

"Everybody has the right to try. She will get the right to try as a parliament member. I hope she would submit with appropriate reasons, and the parliament will discuss and make a decision," he said.

"If it is appropriate, she will get it. But, in my view, over 1,000 [selected] representatives [of the public] discussed the constitution [at a convention], including [political] parties, various levels of people and experts.

"Even ethnic groups and some ethnic armed groups were in this [process]. We argued, we discussed, and with majority agreement, this constitution draft was drawn up. The constitution [began to be implemented] only after the new government was sworn in, and it has been only one year."
 
"During this one year, we don't see anything wrong with this."

Aung San Suu Kyi has said that reserving parliamentary seats for the military is undemocratic.

Any constitutional amendment would require 75 percent of votes in parliament. But 25 percent of parliamentary seats are now reserved for active duty military officers, and together, the military and the military-backed USDP control more than 80 percent of the seats.

'Majority'

Htay Oo said the military quota in parliament was agreed by a "majority" in a constitutional referendum held in 2008.

"[The] majority agreed and so we came to the present stage of 25 percent. We cannot say people don't like this 25 percent [quota]. Some disagreed and some agreed in the 2008 [formulation of the] constitution.

Reported by Nyan Winn Aung. Translated by Khin May Zaw. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.