RANGOON — Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Thursday she would be “above the president” if her party wins a historic election on Nov. 8, defying a constitutional ban on becoming head of state herself.
The general election is the first since a quasi-civilian government took power in 2011 after nearly 50 years of a military dictatorship, and is widely regarded as a referendum on Burma’s reform process.
“I will be above the president,” a relaxed and smiling Suu Kyi told reporters in the country’s largest city Rangoon, in the Nobel laureate’s final press conference ahead of the vote.
“It is a very simple message. The constitution says nothing about someone being above the president.”
Suu Kyi said there had been irregularities in advance voting, fraud and intimidation, and that the process was falling short of its billing as the first free and fair election in 25 years.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) is expected to do well in the election. The party won a landslide in the last open election in 1990, which was annulled by the junta. Suu Kyi was by then already under house arrest, which was to last most of the next twenty years.
The long gap between the election on Sunday and the new government taking power in February next year was also a cause for concern, she said, addressing reporters in a tent on the lawn in front of her Rangoon residence.
In a video at the start of her two-month campaign, she requested vigilance from the international community during the transition period, which she said was almost as important as a free and fair election.
The political activity of the radical Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha, which has sharply criticized the NLD for not supporting a raft of legislation seen as anti-Muslim drafted by the group, was unconstitutional, Suu Kyi said.
Suu Kyu said that the problems of the Rohingya, the country’s persecuted Muslim minority living in western Arakan State, should not be exaggerated and that the whole country was experiencing a “dramatic situation” ahead of the vote.
Suu Kyi has been widely criticized for not speaking out enough on the Rohingya, who live in virtually apartheid-like conditions in Arakan State.