Myanmar’s Suu Kyi to cement power with special ‘advisor’ role
The Southeast Asian nation is witnessing the dawn of a new democratic era following nearly half a century of military repression.
Hopes are surging that the newly sworn-in administration can accelerate the country’s economic and political rejuvenation.
Banned from becoming president by a junta-era constitution, Suu Kyi has vowed to rule “above” a proxy president.
She already holds four cabinet positions, including foreign minister.
A bill proposing a new position for Suu Kyi was submitted to parliament Thursday, in her party’s latest attempt to circumvent that ban.
The bill, which mentions Suu Kyi by name, says the role would give her “responsibility to the parliament regarding the performance of advice”, power to conduct any meetings deemed necessary and a budget.
The post would last for the same five-year term as the president and secure Suu Kyi’s access to the legislature, which she was forced to step down from when she joined the cabinet.
The move is expected to receive little resistance from chambers dominated by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD).
But it could provoke a military that has firmly stood in the way of her path to the top post.
It also raises questions about the 70-year-old’s ability to juggle several major posts in the new administration: foreign affairs, education, energy and the president’s office.
The Nobel laureate has picked her school friend and close aide Htin Kyaw to be president.
But critics say the roundabout arrangement could jam up a fledgling democracy stacked with novice politicians.
– Popular mandate –
Aung Kyi Nyunt, an upper house MP from central Myanmar who submitted the bill, said the new role reflected the popular mandate Suu Kyi won at the polls.
“The object of the proposal from the bill committee in the upper house parliament is to fulfil the wishes and interests of people who voted on 8 November 2015,” he told lawmakers.
Suu Kyi, the daughter of the country’s independence hero, has led a decades-long struggle to wrench power from a junta that jailed her and many other democracy activists — some of whom are now MPs.
Last November’s polls, the freest in decades, saw her party rake in 80 percent of available parliamentary seats.
Suu Kyi is revered by Myanmar’s democracy movement and many believe she has earned the right to lead the country’s first civilian government since 1962.
But repeated efforts to amend the charter that disqualifies her from the presidency have been halted by a military that still retains strong political sway and a quarter of parliament’s seats, giving it an effective veto on any charter change.
The junta-scripted constitution rules out anyone with close foreign relatives; Suu Kyi’s late husband and two sons are British.
The country’s new lawmakers hail from a variety of backgrounds, from doctors to poets, but many have little experience of government.
They are tasked with reviving a battered economy and a society straitjacketed by the army, which ruled with an iron fist between 1962 and the start of reforms in 2011 under the administration of retired general Thein Sein, who stepped aside on Wednesday.
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