Suu Kyi Asks Shwe Mann to Push for Charter Changes

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Aung San Suu Kyi (L) with Shwe Mann after a meeting in parliament in Naypyidaw, Dec. 23, 2011.
Aung San Suu Kyi (L) with Shwe Mann after a meeting in parliament in Naypyidaw, Dec. 23, 2011.

Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday asked her potential challenger in the 2015 presidential race, parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann, to use his political clout to help amend the country's constitution so that they could compete in the elections.

"Mr. Speaker, if you have enough courage to compete with me in the election, please help to amend the constitution for me to be able to become president," Aung San Suu Kyi said, with Shwe Mann by her side during a press conference at the parliament building in Naypyidaw, Myanmar's capital.

"If not, it means you are not doing the right thing," she said, drawing a huge applause from those present.

Both Shwe Mann, who heads the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy, have said that they would bid for the presidency in the 2015 elections.

But Myanmar’s constitution, written in 2008 during the military junta regime that held the Nobel laureate under house arrest for years, has to be amended for her to run.

The charter has a provision blocking anyone whose spouse or children are foreign citizens from becoming president. Aung San Suu Kyi's two sons with her late British husband hold UK citizenship, and the clause is widely believed to be targeted at her.

She said Thursday that it was only fair that Shwe Mann, who is speaker of the Pyithu Hluttaw—the lower house of Myanmar's parliament which is dominated by the USDP and military—lobby MPs to push for the constitutional amendments.

"Eventually it will be the people who will decide in a free and fair election," she said.


The current president, Thein Sein, who took office in March 2011 after landmark elections, has left open the possibility of seeking another term in office in the 2015 election, saying his choice will depend “on the needs of the country.”

If Thein Sein retires, many expect the presidential race to be hotly contested between Shwe Mann and Aung San Suu Kyi.

Shwe Mann, who was number three in command during the junta rule, had told RFA's Myanmar Service last month that Myanmar's parliament will set up a commission to review the constitution, and that if it feels the charter should be amended to pave the way for Aung San Suu Kyi to run for president, the legislature would back the change.

"Three committees in parliament have submitted a proposal to establish a commission to amend the constitution, and this proposal was approved. So, we will establish a commission soon," he said.

"According to this report, we will have to amend, scrap, or replace some points in the 2008 constitution. If the commission submits proposals, including the possibility of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi being able to contest as president, then parliament will support work on it," he said, using an honorific with Aung San Suu Kyi's name.

He said any revision of the constitution will have to take into consideration not only Aung San Suu Kyi's case but the interest of all citizens.

Mandatory quota

Aung San Suu Kyi also wants the constitution amended to do away with the military’s mandatory 25 percent quota in parliament.

The constitution also gives sweeping powers to the military and places conflict-ridden ethnic regions under strict control of the central government.

A constitutional amendment requires at least 75 percent approval in parliament. But together, the military and Shwe Mann's military-backed USDP control more than 80 percent of the seats.

Reported by RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Soe and Maung Maung Nyo. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai





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