Despite New Law, Suu Kyi not Likely to Have a Shot at Presidency
By Jared Ferrie 13 February 2015
RANGOON — A new law that enables Burma to hold a referendum on amending the Constitution is unlikely to bring changes that would allow opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to become president after this year’s general election, a ruling party parliamentarian said on Thursday.
President Thein Sein has signed off on a constitutional referendum law, lawmakers said on Wednesday. The move comes after domestic and international pressure to reform Burma’s political system, which is stacked in favor of the military.
Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party have been pushing for changes to the Constitution, which the military drafted. One clause bars anyone whose children or spouse are foreigners from becoming president, which is seen aimed at Nobel laureate Suu Kyi, whose two sons are British citizens.
Shwe Maung, a parliamentarian from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), said the clause is unlikely to be included if a referendum is held this year.
Bringing that section to referendum would require support from 76 percent of parliamentarians, but such a move would be opposed by unelected military MPs who hold 25 percent of the seats and many in the USDP, which holds most seats and is made up largely of former military officers, he said.
“I don’t expect a rapid change,” he said. “If it’s not possible this time, maybe in a future referendum.”
Burma’s president is chosen by parliamentarians after the general election.
It is unclear whether the referendum would be held at all this year.
Shwe Maung and other lawmakers have said a referendum could take place as early as May, as was suggested by the powerful parliamentary speaker Shwe Mann.
Others say that is unlikely given the logistical challenges faced by the Union Election Commission, which is busy preparing for general elections expected in late October or November. Preparations include updating the voters list, a mammoth task.
“The updated list won’t be ready until later in the year,” said Richard Horsey, a Yangon-based independent political analyst.
He said a constitutional referendum is unlikely this year, but could take place concurrent with the general elections if parliament was able to decide on which articles should be put to vote.