Burma’s Suu Kyi insists she will be in charge as election wins mount

Although rules bar her from presidency, opposition leader to make ‘all the decisions’

A woman holds a newspaper featuring a photograph of opposition leader  Aung San Suu Kyi, at a stall in Yangon, Burma.   Photograph: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg

A woman holds a newspaper featuring a photograph of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, at a stall in Yangon, Burma. Photograph: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg

 

Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi made it clear on Tuesday that she was ready to defy any attempt by the country’s military to clip her wings, as fresh results from Sunday’s historic election showed her party heading for a resounding win.

As vote tallies trickled in, Ms Suu Kyi’s long-oppressed National League for Democracy (NLD) looked set to take control of most regional assemblies as well as forming the central government, a triumph that will reshape the political landscape.

Under the constitution drawn up by the former junta of Burma (Myanmar), Ms Suu Kyi is barred by the constitution from taking the presidency because her children are foreign nationals, a clause few doubt was inserted specifically to rule her out.

But in two interviews on Tuesday, the Nobel peace laureate said that, whoever was appointed president by the newly elected houses of parliament, she would call the shots.

She told the BBC that she would be “making all the decisions as the leader of the winning party” and Channel News Asia that the next president would have “no authority”.

The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which was created by the junta and is led by retired soldiers, has conceded defeat in a poll that was a milestone on Burma’s s rocky path from dictatorship to democracy.

The NLD said its tally of results posted at polling stations showed it was on track to take more than two-thirds of seats that were contested in parliament, enough to form Myanmar’s first democratically elected government since the early 1960s.

Seats reserved

Reuters was not able to independently verify the party’s own estimates of its performance.

The election commission said the NLD had won 78 of the 88 seats declared so far for the 440-strong lower house. No seats have been declared in the upper house.

Official results also showed that Sunday’s election had handed the NLD a landslide win in the battle for regional assemblies, with Ms Suu Kyi’s party winning 143 of the 165 seats declared so far for local legislatures and the USDP just 12.

“The difference between the parties is huge. It’s a clear win,” said Sitida, a 37-year-old Buddhist monk in the central city of Mandalay who marched in the country’s 2007 “Saffron Revolution” protests that were crushed by the junta.

Sitida, who was sentenced to 70 years in prison for his role in the demonstrations but was given amnesty as part of political reforms in 2011, said the military would now have to accept the NLD’s win and negotiate an orderly retreat from politics.

“Daw Suu can make this happen. Daw Suu can convince them,” he said, referring to Ms Suu Kyi with an honorific.

Formidable

In addition to his bloc of parliament seats, the commander-in-chief nominates the heads of three powerful and big-budget ministries – interior, defence and border security – and the constitution gives him the right to take over the government under certain circumstances.

The military has said it will accept the outcome of the election, and Ms Suu Kyi said times have changed since the 1990 election she won a landslide that the military ignored. She spent years under house arrest following that poll.

“I find that the people are far more politicised now than they were . . . so it’s much more difficult for those who wish to engage in irregularities to get away with it,” she told the BBC.

Still, analysts say a period of uncertainty may be looming for Burma because it is not clear if Ms Suu Kyi and the generals will be able to share power easily.

Sunday’s vote was the southeast Asian nation’s first general election since the military ceded power to a quasi-civilian government in 2011, ushering in reforms and opening up to foreign investors.

Washington welcomed the election as a victory for Burma’s people, but said it would watch for the democratic process to move forward before making any adjustments to remaining US sanctions on a country long considered a pariah.

Reuters