South Asia | Myanmar's Suu Kyi reaches out to military with big landslide in sight

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi reaches out to military with big landslide in sight

November 11, 2015 3:30 AM (UTC+8)

 

Myanmar’s democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi, moving closer to an absolute majority in parliament on Wednesday, requested a meeting with the president and the powerful military chief to discuss national reconciliation.

Suu Kyi won her seat in Myanmar's historic elections
Suu Kyi has won her seat from Kawhmu constituency in Yangon

Suu Kyi’s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) has won over 90% of the seats declared so far in the lower house and is well ahead in the upper house and regional assemblies.

If the final results confirm the trend, Suu Kyi’s triumph will sweep out an old guard of former generals that has run Myanmar since the junta handed over power to President Thein Sein’s semi-civilian government in 2011.

But the army retains formidable power in Myanmar’s political institutions after nearly 50 years of running the country and it is unclear how Suu Kyi and the generals will work together.

In letters to the commander-in-chief and the president dated Nov. 10 which the NLD released to media Wednesday, Suu Kyi requested meetings within a week to discuss the basis of “national reconciliation.”

“It is very important for the dignity of the country and to bring peace of mind to the people,” Suu Kyi said in the letter.

President Thein Sein would meet Suu Kyi, said Zaw Htay, a senior official from the president’s office. “It’s just a question of when.”

Relations between Suu Kyi and armed forces chief Min Aung Hlaing are said to be strained.

One of the biggest sources of tension between Suu Kyi and the military is a clause in the constitution drawn up by the former junta barring her from the presidency because her children are foreign nationals.

Few doubt the clause was inserted to rule her out.

While her letters seek conciliation, Suu Kyi has become increasingly defiant on the presidential clause as the scale of her victory has become apparent.

She has made it clear she will run the country regardless of who the NLD elects as president and described the constitution as “very silly”.

“We’ll find one,” she told the BBC in an interview on Tuesday, referring to her choice of president. “But that won’t stop me from making all the decisions as the leader of the winning party.”

Results so far gave Suu Kyi’s party 135 of 149 seats declared out of the 330 seats not occupied by the military in the chamber. Under the junta-crafted constitution, a quarter of the seats in both houses are unelected and reserved for the armed forces.

To form Myanmar’s first democratically elected government since the early 1960s, the NLD needs to win more than two-thirds of seats that were contested in parliament.

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

Suu Kyi also requested a meeting with former USDP chairman Shwe Mann, the lower house speaker. He lost his seat, but before the election had been seen as a presidential contender.

He antagonised the military while in parliament and built close ties to Suu Kyi, arousing the suspicion of many in his party.

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