‘State Counselor’ Bill Signed, Creating Powerful Position for Suu Kyi

By Tin Htet Paing 7 April 2016

RANGOON — President Htin Kyaw signed into law the “State Counselor” bill on Wednesday, essentially granting National League for Democracy (NLD) chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi broad powers that could secure her position “above the president.”

The legislation, which passed Burma’s Lower House on Tuesday, has stirred up controversy among some parliamentarians. In particular, the military bloc and members of the former ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) made 13 recommendations to amend the bill.

Military lawmakers claimed that the bill was unconstitutional, and they boycotted the proceedings by refusing to cast a ballot during the session. Brig-Gen Maung Maung said to reporters on Tuesday that military lawmakers refused to cast ballots because they saw the legislature’s voting behavior as “democratic bullying,” referring to the fact that the legislature is dominated by the NLD.

However, the NLD-dominated Parliament responded to the claim by saying that the position was created out of political necessity—Aung San Suu Kyi’s party overwhelmingly won the general election in November, but she is constitutionally barred from the presidency.

Ko Ni, a lawyer, told The Irrawaddy that the legislation is intended to support the sort of principled leadership that Burma sorely needs.

“Since Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from presidency, the NLD is trying to appoint her to the position of State Counselor by referring to provisions in the Constitution and in other laws that will provide her with de facto leadership,” he said.

“Good leadership is necessary, and this leadership must be provided by the person whom people truly trust in and rely on.”