Myanmar's Parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann on Thursday said that he would cooperate with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi if she wins the presidential bid in the country’s upcoming 2015 election.
But Shwe Mann, who is also the chairman of the military-backed ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), said that changing a key provision in the country’s constitution which currently bars Aung San Suu Kyi from running for the top job is not his only priority among amendments to the charter, according to a report.
“If she was elected president, I would work together with her for the sake of the country’s development,” the speaker, who has also expressed interest in the presidency, told a press conference in the capital Naypyidaw.
“I have no objection to her becoming the president,” he said of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party chief and Nobel laureate.
Shwe Mann also backed a November proposal by Aung San Suu Kyi to hold four-way talks between the two of them, President Thein Sein, and Armed Forces Commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on prospects of amending the constitution.
The parliamentary speaker stressed that amending the constitution “is very important for national solidarity, peace, and prosperity,” but said the four-way talks should be a used as a tool for discussing all issues, not just the constitution.
“[The four-way talks should be held] not just for discussing constitutional amendments, but for any issue,” he said.
“Dialogue is the best way to solve problems. That’s why her proposal is welcomed.”
At the time of the proposal, Thein Sein, the USDP, and at least one ethnic-based party said any talks among top leaders should wait until after Myanmar’s 109-member parliamentary review committee completes its work.
The panel is expected to submit constitutional amendment proposals it received from the public, political parties, and civil societies to parliament by the end of this month.
According to a report by the Irrawaddy online journal, Shwe Mann also said that while he “would personally be glad” if Aung San Suu Kyi was elected, his party is not specifically focused on changing Article 59(F), which bans her from running for the country’s top office.
“I will not block [her from becoming president], and I would even welcome it by cooperating with her,” the report quoted him as saying.
“But I am not looking only to amend Article 59 of the Constitution.”
The 2008 junta-drafted charter’s Article 59(F) prohibits anyone from becoming president if they have family members who are foreign nationals. Aung San Suu Kyi’s two sons hold British citizenship.
Late last month, the USDP announced proposed changes to more than 50 articles in the constitution, including an amendment to Article 59 that would allow a presidential candidate to take office if his or her family members renounced their existing citizenship and became Myanmar nationals.
Aung San Suu Kyi told RFA following the USDP announcement that she would let her adult sons decide for themselves, adding that forcing them to change their nationality would go against the standards of democracy.
Aung San Suu Kyi has labeled Myanmar’s constitution fundamentally “undemocratic” and called for extensive changes, including to the process for making amendments.
The opposition leader has recently toured the country to promote changes to the charter which, in addition to the clause barring her from the presidency, contains several provisions widely seen as undemocratic.
The constitution reserves a quarter of seats in parliament for the military and requires a three-quarters majority for a national referendum on proposed amendments.
Ethnic-based political parties in Myanmar and armed rebel groups negotiating cease-fire agreements with the government have also called for amendments that allow ethnic groups and states greater autonomy.
The country’s ruling officials have mostly expressed support for constitutional amendments, but with elections barely two years away, some observers say the process so far has been slow.
Reported by Myo Thant Khine and Kyaw Htun Naing for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Kyaw Kyaw Aung. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.