ELECTION 2015
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DECISION 2015

NLD Wins Supermajority, Will Form Next Government

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy secures the parliamentary supermajority that the party needs to select Burma’s next president.


RANGOON — Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) on Friday secured the parliamentary supermajority it needs to select Burma’s next president, tallying enough wins to ensure that the country’s opposition will assume the mantle of ruling party in just a few months’ time.

The mammoth NLD victory in a historic nationwide poll that took place five days ago is both a rejection of the governing Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and affirmation of a broad base of support for the NLD, or at least its popular chairwoman Suu Kyi.

While the NLD itself said as early as Tuesday that by its own count, the party had secured the necessary seats to elect the president, Friday’s noon announcement from the Union Election Commission (UEC) as good as cements it as a 2016 reality. Given the fact that the last NLD triumph at the ballot box was ignored by the former ruling junta in 1990, questions about the military’s willingness to accept the result will justifiably linger, despite assurances from the commander-in-chief that the outcome will be honored.

The supermajority brings into clearer focus, albeit only marginally, how the next three months will play out. While a less commanding victory by Burma’s main opposition party would likely have forced the NLD to the negotiating table with some of the country’s smaller ethnic parties, the latest release of election results gives the NLD 348 seats in the Union Parliament, meaning its MP-elects have the majority they need to go it alone, if necessary.

Out of a maximum 657 votes in the national legislature, a 329-seat majority is required to choose the president, with the newly elected parliamentary class expected to convene for the vote sometime in February or March.

This week brought an almost uninterrupted stream of good news for the NLD, with daily UEC announcements of the latest election returns pushing the party ever closer to the Union Parliament threshold required to choose the president. Thousands of supporters gathered outside the NLD headquarters in Rangoon to watch the first results come in on Monday night, the sea of red-clad celebrants clogging traffic as party anthems blared and vote tallies were broadcast on a big-screen erected for the occasion.

US President Barack Obama phoned the opposition leader on Thursday to congratulate her on the party’s success at the polls. Obama, who made house calls to Suu Kyi’s residence on both of his visits to Burma in 2013 and again last year, “commended her for her tireless efforts and sacrifice over so many years to promote a more inclusive, peaceful, and democratic Burma,” the White House said.

As plaudits pour in from around the world and Burma’s ruling party and military establishment continue to adjust to the new political landscape, the question now becomes: With Suu Kyi barred from assuming Burma’s highest elected office, who will be the nation’s next president?

Constitutional Collision Course

It could be more than 130 days before a new government takes power, leaving a protracted transition period that Suu Kyi has flagged as exceptionally long among democracies globally.

“Nowhere else in the world is there such a gap between the end of the election and the forming of the new administration, and certainly it’s something about which we should all be concerned,” she told reporters at a Nov. 5 press conference at her lakeside villa in Rangoon.

For all the clarity that the supermajority brings, it also would appear to make friction between the NLD chairwoman and Burma’s powerful military all the more likely, and could render prospects for a smooth transition less certain. Suu Kyi has positioned herself as president, in all but name, of any NLD-led government; in her press conference last week, she said she would be “above the president,” should her party secure the votes needed to select the country’s next chief executive.

For anyone unfamiliar with Burma’s Constitution, the remark might have elicited a quizzical look. But for those aware of the implications of the charter’s Article 59(f)—including the military elite who are believed to have written the provision with her in mind—it is a direct challenge to the document’s legitimacy as a framework for governance.

Article 59(f) states that individuals whose children or spouse “owe allegiance to a foreign power” cannot assume the presidency, precluding Suu Kyi because her late husband and children hold British passports.

The charter’s preceding article, meanwhile, casts doubt on Suu Kyi’s ability to be “above the president” and still toe the constitutional line.

“The President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar takes precedence over all other persons throughout the Republic of the Union of Myanmar,” it states.

The coming weeks are sure to be heavy with speculation over who the NLD chairwoman will choose to effectively serve as a puppet in her shadow government.

Suu Kyi herself has been the epitome of coy when asked who might serve as her stand-in, saying only that the president would “be told exactly what to do” by “the party,” with little doubt that this means on her orders. Asked by a reporter last week about how she intended to circumvent the constitutional hurdle to lead the next government, Suu Kyi replied: “Oh, I have already made plans,” without elaborating.

Political prognosticators in the lead-up to the vote have tried to forecast scenarios that might play out post-Nov. 8. While the kind of resounding victory that the NLD is headed toward had certainly been offered up as a possibility, a dearth of reliable information on voter sentiment, uncertainty over how big a role identity politics would play at the ballot box, and widespread skepticism about the election’s credibility had combined to make an NLD landslide only one of several plausible outcomes.

Union Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann, who has cultivated a working relationship with Suu Kyi and had been considered a potential presidential contender, would appear to be entirely out of the running at this point, after losing favor within his own party earlier this year and then failing to win the majority’s vote even in his native Phyu Township on election day.

Shwe Mann, President Thein Sein and Burma Army commander-in-chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing have all agreed to meet with the opposition leader at her request, though a date for that dialogue has yet to be decided. Regardless of when and where, the question of presidential succession is guaranteed to be a major point of discussion, and an amicable exchange of views would appear advisable, given that the military will maintain an enduring post-2015 role in Burma’s politics despite the NLD victory.

Though the NLD looks almost certain to win enough seats in both chambers of the national legislature to pass laws without needing to court other parties’ votes—and in the process effectively neutering the military’s constitutionally guaranteed 25 percent bloc of unelected lawmakers on legislative matters—Min Aung Hlaing or his successor will still select ministers for three of the country’s most powerful and pervasive portfolios, covering home affairs, defense and border affairs.

Its one-quarter allotment of seats in Parliament means the military also holds a veto over constitutional change, a major plank of the NLD’s election campaign.

The UEC has pledged to deliver full election results within two weeks of the Nov. 8 vote, and totals could come as soon as Sunday.

Friday’s noon announcement added 21 seats to the NLD’s Lower House contingent, pushing its Union Parliament total past the supermajority threshold after it came up just short on Thursday night, sitting at 327 seats as of 9 pm.

10 Comments
Albert Teow

Congratulation to S.Kyi, She had been waiting for years to have this success, but it’s a long way to go for her to form the next government. We have look into the constitution that barred her from becoming the next President, so let’s see who she will appoint to be her puppet.

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GAWN

Just a few thoughts … how many western democratic states would allow a head of state whose first grade family members are foreign citizens? I am not an expert on legal matters but I’d gues that, even if there are no legal provisions (which I would, however, think there are propably in many countries) this would likely be an issue in pre election campaigns. I thin I recall that there was a discussion in the US prior to the elections some years ago if Obama was really born in the US, because otherwise he could not have become president. So I would believe that Article 59(f) can’t be a very unusual provision if seen in international comparison. However, a person procaliming herself to be “above the president” or head of state in a democratic system is definitely rather unusual …

And a 80% supermajority not only has the great advantage of curbing the military’s influence – but also the disadvantage of reducing various minorities – ethnic and religious to obscurity and leaving many ethnic parties severely defeated as well. These are not the best preconditions for the evolution of system that is tolerant of ethnic, religious and political pluralism as befits any serious democracy.

I am more than delighted to see the long desired political change happening – but seriously worried about the possible implications of an NLD-one party system with an all-overtowering Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and next to no other voices/parties left that could, where necessary, voice dissent or critique of her decisions.

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Shwe Joe Phyu

Chin representatives from NLD will form Chin State Government. If the people can elect their own State/Divisional Chief Minister, it will be awesome.

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maung tar

Congratulation Daw ASSK. When ASSK said ” I will be above the President”, I think she did not mean to be bossy. At that time she was thinking only for election. People vote for her, not for the NLD candidates. She did not want people to think that what is the point of if she can’t be the President and Head of state.

Now I am thinking of likely scenarios.
a. few weeks ago I have read a suggestion that ASSK will advised U thein Sein or U shwe Mann to be a president for a while, and she control the legislative agenda as Chairperson of the Parliament. I don’t think this is possible UTS or USM may not agree and ASSK party members and the public will be angry.
b. ASSK as Chairperson of parliament and NLD senior member as President, and she can control government and legislative agenda. This will be disadvantage for her , because she will not be in touch with day to day function and decision of the Cabinet, and she need constant consultation by/from the President.
c. Another option is ASSK took key Ministrial Position ( eg Treasurer/ Foreign Affairs) and worked in the Cabinet as member of the Government. The advantage is that ASSK will have regular contact and discussion with Military appointed Ministers, and can have regular subtle influence. In other words ASSK works as defacto Prime Minister ( although no such position in the Constitution). So that she can work closely with President and 3 Ministers from the Military. This arrangement is more palatable than Parliament Chairperson controlling the President and Cabinet from the distance.
d. ASSK can be Senior Minister in The Cabinet without taking any portfolio responsibility.
Then she can have her say and direct cabinet meeting even The President is in the Chair.She will be able to control government policies as the President of A Ruling party.
These are the outcomes of my brain storming exercise.
In any circumstances LNP Government should consider the following as priority
Peace with ethnic groups and end civil war. Resolve Federation issue.Reestablish rules of law. zero tolerance to corruption for everyone, separate religion and politics, find many ways to achieve economic development. Accept current constitution at least for the time being.

Reply
Name

Story does little to clarify matters. What we need to know is how many seats the NLD has won in the lower house. If the party picks up more than two-thirds they may be able to rewrite the Constitution paving the way for Daw Suu to take up the presidency.
As for the story itself the key fact – number of seats in both houses – should be in the first few paragraphs not buried half way down.

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Daw Onmar

The securuty council and the commander-in-chief of the Tatmadaw are above the president, isn’t it?
That is certainly very unusual in a democracy.

Daw ASSK would not ignore the ethnic minorities. NLD received so many votes in this election, includinng many votes from the ethnic minorities. They trust her, because her father called the Panglong conference on the eve of Myanmar independence. He envisaged a federal structure for the “Union of Burma”.

The disenfranchised section of the population (that would be entiltled to vote, but in fact was not allowed to vote for a number of reasons) includes several Millions of Myanmar citizens living abroad, and a large number of ethnic minorities. These are the muted voices, that also belong to the population. National reconcilliation can only come, if these muted voices are considered. – More has to be done also to motivate the expatriates to return to Myanmar. The knowledge they aquired in foreign countries is valuable for re-building Myanmar. (To put them into prison, because they start to teach English in their home towns, and then deport them, because they have only a tourist visa, is not going to help.)

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Daw Onmar

But of course, without the good will of the army, in the person of Sen. Gen. Min Aung, the NLD can only talk, not act, even after winning a land slide victory at the elections, because of the “Nargis constitution”, enshrining military domination for the country. Even 100% of the elected seats in parliament are not sufficient to change this bulwark of army dominance (instituted in 2008), the military HAS TO agree to any changes.
It will take education of the serving officers, opening up their minds to the modern world of today, so they can develop a vision how to serve the country best, without suppressing the ethnic minorities, and other dissident voices.

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Daw Onmar

When the military seized power March 1962, I was a young girl studying at Rangoon University. In the newspaper discussion after the coup, the army claimed that, Burma, did not really have any such thing as a public opinion. That seemed strange to me at that time. A public opinion is such a natural thing, did Burma really not have one in 1962?
– At least now, 53 years later, no one will ever be able to doubt again, that Myanmar/Burma very definitely does have a public opinion, and that it is against army rule.

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Gary Horswell

We are so very pleased with this long awaited victory for the people of Myanmar, it is with fond appreciation for our friends and family who have sacrificed so much over the decades. Our thoughts, our prayers and our backs are with the people of Myanmar who have arrive on new ground – with hope, promise, dignity and integrity. The young and the next generation of young men and women of Myanmar can always tell this story of their brave, courageous parents and grand parents who always new their children’s children would have a better life.
Gary Horswell,
President,
Canada Myanmar Business Association

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