NLD doubts charter change before poll- Jintana Panyaarvudh

NLD doubts charter change before poll

Jintana Panyaarvudh
The Nation
March 25, 2015 8:42 am


A souvenir stall in front of the NLD headquarters in Yangon.

Expects to win election but says Suu kyi unlikely to be president

Despite being confident of a landslide victory in the election late this year, the opposition National League for Democracy party believes there will be no amendment of the constitution in time to allow its leader Aung SanSuu Kyi to become president.

However, the party plans to amend the charter if they win the election so that Suu Kyi can become president.

"When we win the majority, we can change the constitution and the qualifications to be president," Nyan Win, secretary of the NLD's central executive committee, said recently.

He was speaking at a meeting with a group of Thai journalists who visited Yangon as part of a training course organised by the Asean Journalists Club of Thailand.

A clause in the constitution prohibits anyone from becoming president or vice president if his spouse or children holds foreign allegiances. Suu Kyi's late husband Michael Aris was British and her two sons are British citizens, so she is forbidden from becoming president.

President Thein Sein has approved a law allowing a referendum to make amendments to the constitution - a move that could eventually lift what amounts to a ban on the opposition leader and Nobel Laureate Suu Kyifrom the presidency.

But Han Tha Myint, a member of the NLD's central executive committee, said he believes the charter amendment cannot be done before the election because it is very difficult.

If the constitution is not amended before the election to allow Suu Kyi to become president, and the NLD wins a majority of seats, then it can choose anybody inside or outside parliament to be president, he said.

"We don't have to think about that now. We'll decide after we get into parliament," he said, when asked who the NLD would nominate as president.

But if the charter is amended before the election, the NLD would nominate Suu Kyi for president, he said.

The NLD expects to win 80 per cent of Lower and Upper House seats and plans to field over 1,000 candidates in the election, Han Tha Myint said.

The Union Assembly is made up of two houses - a 224-seat Upper House and a 440-seat Lower House including a 25-per-cent quota for the military. Each of the 14 regions or states also have a local assembly, totalling some 664 seats.

According to Han Tha Myint, the NLD's political base is in big cities such as Yangon and Mandalay, not in small towns or rural areas.

The NLD won a landslide in the 1990 election and 43 of the 44 seats it contested in byelections in 2012, whenSuu Kyi was elected as an MP.

In the 2012 byelections, the NLD won outright in Myanmar-dominated, or Burmese, areas, but in Shan State they won two areas and lost one in Lashio, he said.

Possible coalition

The general election is expected to be held in October or November, if the poll goes ahead as scheduled, with a new government due to start work in April next year, a diplomat said.

Political observers believe the new government would be a coalition of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party and the NLD.

Many predict that if the incumbent USDP government wins, it may offer Suu Kyi the post of parliamentary speaker or foreign minister because she enjoys a good image on the international stage.

"Many things are possible," Han Tha Myint said.

Asked if the NLD could join a coalition government with USDP, he said his party was always ready to work with anybody if their objectives were the same.

While there are circumstances or problems that could delay the poll, his party was now preparing for the ballot.

The four main policy focuses in the NLD's campaign are promoting national reconciliation, the rule of law, amending the constitution and good governance, he said.

The party is training some 100,000 members to act as agents to monitor over 60,000 polling stations across the country. They will watch the election process and see if the election commission acts fairly.

Asked if it is true that the NLD's popularity is declining while the president has gained more popularity by issuing some policies to promote citizens' well-being, Han Tha Myint said, "our popularity might be declining but the government's popularity is also declining".

However, the party declines to say who may succeed The Lady, if the 69-year-old Suu Kyi retires. "We can't tell in advance," Nyan Win said.

Han Tha Myint said all party members would vote to elect a new leader if Suu Kyi was to retire. "For now, we don't have a number two," he said.

However, there is a "youth wing" in the party which has more than 50,000 members who are under 30 years of age and they would be the party's political future after the Suu Kyi era, he said.