|Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi commands considerable influence in Myanmar [Reuters]|
Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s most prominent dissident, will run in an upcoming parliamentary election, a senior official in her party said, three days after her National League for Democracy (NLD) ended its boycott of the country’s political system.
“Some people are worried that taking part could harm my dignity. Frankly, if you do politics, you should not be thinking about your dignity.”
– Aung San Suu Kyi
“Aung San Suu Kyi intends to stand for the by-election but it’s a bit early to say from which constituency she will run,” Nyan Win, a senior official in her party, told Reuters news agency on Monday.
It will be the first time the Nobel Peace Prize laureate has competed in an election since 1990, when her landslide electoral victory was voided by generals intent on maintaining power.
Suu Kyi, the daughter of late independence hero Aung San and a staunch opponent of the military dictators who ruled Myanmar until nominally handing power to a civilian parliament in March, spent 15 of the previous 21 years in detention before her release from house arrest a year ago.
The 66-year-old told her party on Friday that they should contest all the seats available in parliamentary elections and had implied that she would run herself.
“Some people are worried that taking part could harm my dignity. Frankly, if you do politics, you should not be thinking about your dignity,” she said.
There are 48 parliamentary seats available but no polling dates have been set for elections.
‘Flickers of progress’
Suu Kyi had previously not indicated whether she herself was interested in becoming a member of parliament, but her decision comes after Myanmar won a powerful endorsement on Friday when US President Barack Obama announced Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would visit the resource-rich country neighbouring China, citing “flickers of progress”.
Clinton will be the highest-ranking American to visit the former British colony since a 1962 military coup.
On her two-day visit early next month she plans to meet with Suu Kyi, and has said credible elections are one condition for ending US sanctions, along with the release of more political prisoners and peace with ethnic minorities.
The NLD, which has been mostly suppressed since its election landslide in 1990, boycotted elections a year ago because of strict laws that prevented many of its members from taking part. As a result, the authorities officially dissolved it but it has continued to function and enjoys strong support from the public.
Myanmar recently amended a political party law removing a clause barring anyone convicted of a crime from joining a party or taking part in an election, paving the way for those who had served a prison term, including Suu Kyi, to contest the polls.
Suu Kyi commands considerable influence over the party and Ko Ko Hlaing, a senior advisor to President Thein Sein, said on the sidelines of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Bali last week that the NLD’s decision to re-register was a “significant step”.
The presence of Suu Kyi in parliament would be another dramatic sign of openness that could give more legitimacy to the retired generals in charge of the country, who are eager to be accepted by the public at home and the international community.
Under the leadership of Thein Sein, the government has started a dialogue with Suu Kyi; a move welcomed by the West, which has imposed sanctions on the country because of its poor human rights record.
The government recently released more than 230 political prisoners, eased media censorship and sought guidance from international financial institutions to revive its economy.