The democracy icon as puppet master
Partyforumseasia: Rumors had it that the long wait for the nomination of Myanmar’s next president was due to attempts on a last minute arrangement with the military to eventually accept Aung San Suu Kyi herself. Her own hopes were obviously being shared by many voters, but now it looks most likely that she has to stick to her first plan of choosing a sufficiently loyal “proxy president“. It will be an awkward solution, but justifiable under the assumption that the constitution has been drafted only to prevent “The Lady” and does not reflect the new democratic reality of Myanmar any more.
“Far from a remedy to the NLD’s presidential quandary, the proxy arrangement is riddled with its own practical pitfalls and political vulnerabilities. Analysts fear that dividing the centre of power into two camps – the proxy president and the puppet master – could cripple the NLD’s administration from its outset.” writes the Myanmar Times ( Link ) on 2 March with the cartoon above.
The main danger may lie in Aung San Suu Kyi’s political style which is being described as “imperious”. Assuming that the titulary president cannot be seen as a mere lap dog by the public either, the selection may be as difficult as the future working relationship.
Power is certainly helping older politicians to stay healthy and sharp – see the recent activities of 90-year-old Dr. Mahathir in Malaysia – but Aung San Suu Kyi, going to be 71 in June, is only starting with the full governing burden and responsibility in April. The transformation of the multi-ethnic country with countless minority problems among many others has a long way to go to catch up with the more successful ASEAN partners. A failure of the democratic awakening would endanger Myanmar’s economic recovery even more than the military takeover does in neighboring Thailand.
Partyforumseasia: Allowing Aung San Suu Kyi to run for president in the elections later this year would have changed the whole set up of parliament and government in Myanmar and ended the military control. From their standpoint it is only logical not to change the constitution which bars her from a candidacy. As far fetched as this clause may look, it is preventing a more than likely sweeping victory of the opposition.
“Myanmar’s opposition leader and democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi has acknowledged she will be unable to become her country’s next president after elections later this year, a decision that will disappoint millions of her supporters.
The 69 year-old Nobel laureate will instead seek to chair Myanmar’s parliament where one-third of seats are allocated to the military, according to Aung Shin, a spokesman for her National League for Democracy (NLD).
Ms Suu Kyi has conceded that despite intense lobbying Myanmar’s quasi civilian government will refuse to abolish a constitutional clause barring her from the presidency before the elections that are seen as a crucial test of the country’s move towards a freer and open society after almost 50 years of often-brutal military rule.
The clause specifically directed at Ms Suu Kyi bars anyone from becoming president who has a spouse or child who is a citizen of a foreign country.
Ms Suu Kyi’s late husband was British and their two children hold British passports. Taking the chair in parliament would boost Ms Suu Kyi’s power and likely increase unity among opposition parties.”
See the whole article in The Sidney Morning Herald, LINK here
Partyforumseasia: The long way from prison and house arrest to the presidential palace seems to open up for democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, “The Lady”. At the same time, her leadership of the National League for Democracy (NLD) comes under criticism by former supporters. “Foreign Policy” in its May/June edition (pp 32-34) publishes an article by Min Zin with the telling title “You Can’t Go Home Again”. The author, a former student activist in Burma, is now a journalist based in California. His feelings are nostalgic and disappointed at the same time when he comes back to a changed country: “And the more I spoke with Burma’s intellectuals, with the dissidents who had struggled alongside me so many years ago, what I heard was not simply joy about a country finally opening up to the world (…) but also the striking disappointment, in particular with our beloved Aung San Suu Kyi. (…) Today (…) even among those who love and respect Aung San Suu Kyi, her sainthood appears tarnished by an increasing aloofness and distance from the rest of the political opposition. Her leadership style makes her unapproachable. In the party congress of her National League for Democracy, held in March – the first in more than 20 years – she alone handpicked her central executive committee. But even worse than this worrying authoritarian streak, she seems willing, even eager, to please the former generals at the expense of moral and political principles. One of the most striking examples is her silence on the racist discrimination and violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority…”.
Exile, that shows history everywhere, makes it hard to leave the difficult past behind and see the new reality with open eyes. Many exiles remain bitter and may (often secretly) expect a compensation for their sufferings, one that Aung San Suu Kyi seems to be getting now.
But Min Zin’s question remains valid: What type of party will the NLD be in the next few years and how will The Lady and her handpicked executive committee lead it? The transition from decades as suppressed opposition to ruling a difficult country will not be easy.