NAYPYIDAW — Burma democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi will steer the incoming government of her National League for Democracy (NLD), staying on as party head, and is unlikely to take a formal position in the government, the party said on Sunday.
Burma’s Parliament last week elected Htin Kyaw, a close friend and confidant of the Nobel peace prize laureate, as president, making him the first head of state since the 1960s who does not hail from a military background.
Suu Kyi led the NLD to a historic landslide election win in November, but a Constitution drafted by the former junta bars her from the top office because her two children and her late husband do not have Burmese citizenship.
Suu Kyi has vowed to defy the Constitution described by senior NLD members as “ridiculous,” pledging to run the country from “above the president.”
The party has not clarified how such an arrangement would be implemented, fueling speculation about possible positions Suu Kyi might assume after the government takes office on April 1.
“Taking positions is not that important any more. … In the United States, there are many famous lawmakers in the parliament who are very influential, but they don’t take any position in the cabinet,” Zaw Myint Maung, an NLD spokesman and one of its leaders, told Reuters late on Sunday.
“It’s the same here. She will lead the [ruling] party, so she will [by extension] lead the government formed by that party,” said the spokesman, in the most detailed remarks on the issue by a senior NLD politician to date.
He did not elaborate on the party’s plans.
Win Htein, another top NLD leader and Suu Kyi confidant, told Reuters in November that Suu Kyi could be “something like Sonia Gandhi.” Suu Kyi herself said in October that her plan was not “quite like that,” but she did not provide details on her plans.
Gandhi is the Italian-born widow of the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. As leader of the Congress party, she dominated the government of former Prime Minister Mahmohan Singh before it fell from power in 2014.
Burma’s powerful military holds a quarter of parliamentary seats and the constitutional right to nominate one of the three presidential candidates. Its candidate, retired lieutenant-general Myint Swe, last week became the country’s vice president No. 1.
Relations between the armed forces and Suu Kyi will define the success of Burma’s most significant break from military rule since the army seized power in 1962.
The NLD spokesman said that on Monday, President-elect Htin Kyaw would speak in Parliament about reducing the number of government ministries. Last week the NLD said it would slash the number of ministries by about a third to 21.