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Myanmar ruling dents Suu Kyi presidential bid

Parliament committee votes against amending law barring anyone whose family are loyal to foreign state from presidency.

Last updated: 14 Jun 2014 07:21
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Democracy activists in Myanmar have joined Aung San Suu Kyi in calling for constitutional amendments [AP]

A parliamentary committee has voted against changing a clause in Myanmar's constitution that bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from running for president.

The clause bars anyone whose spouse or children are loyal to foreign countries from becoming president or vice president. Suu Kyi's late husband and her two sons are British citizens.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party is expected to mount a strong challenge in next year's general election, with a good possibility of winning, but without Suu Kyi as a prospective president, its backers may flag in their support.

Twenty-six of the 31 members of the committee tasked with recommending changes voted against amending the clause.
The decision by the committee last week was not publicised, but a member who did not want to be identified because he is not supposed to speak to the media confirmed the result of the vote to the AP news agency.

The decision still needs to be endorsed by the full parliament, but a change appears unlikely since the committee members who rejected the amendment are mainly politicians from the pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Party, which holds an overwhelming majority of the legislative seats.

It is unclear when parliament will take action on the recommendation.

Demand for change

Suu Kyi has said that the current constitution needs to be amended to meet democratic norms and to make elections free and fair.

Her party has been holding rallies to gain public support and convince the military and the government to amend the constitution.

Nyan Win, a spokesman for National League for Democracy, said it was more concerned with amending the clauses in the constitution that govern how changes can be made.

If that can be done, he said, it will not be impossible to change other clauses.

The 2008 constitution was drawn up by the previous military government to ensure its continuing influence.

It gives the military a mandatory 25 percent of parliamentary seats, handing it veto powers over any change in the constitution, which requires greater than 75 percent approval, followed by a nationwide referendum.

Suu Kyi has repeatedly called on President Thein Sein and military commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing for discussions on amending the constitution, but both have refused.

Parliament speaker Thura Shwe Mann, who is also from the pro-military faction and harbours presidential ambitions, said changes in the constitution must be completed six months before the 2015 polls.

Since coming to office in 2011, Thein Sein has instituted a series of political and economic reforms after almost five decades of repressive army rule.

Suu Kyi's party rejoined the electoral process after decades of government repression, and won 43 of 44 seats it contested in by-elections in 2012.

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