Suu Kyi’s party to contest 2015 Myanmar elections

It is the first time the National League for Democracy party announced it would take part in the polls.

Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party said on Saturday that it will contest 2015 parliamentary elections even if the country’s constitution barring her from running for president is not amended.

It was the first time the National League for Democracy party announced it would take part in the polls, which Suu Kyi had said cannot be fair unless the constitution is changed.

“I want to say that the NLD will contest the 2015 elections,” National League for Democracy spokesman Nyan Win said at a news conference following a party meeting.

Myanmar is a republic where the president is chosen by Parliament rather than directly elected. The NLD expects to do well enough in the 2015 polls to offer its own presidential candidate, and Suu Kyi has expressed an interest in running. The president is usually elected during the first session of Parliament following the general election.

The 2008 constitution was drawn up under Myanmar’s previous military regime to ensure its continuing influence in government. The NLD considers it undemocratic because of clauses giving the military a mandatory allocation of 25 per cent of parliamentary seats and disqualifying Suu Kyi from running for president.

The NLD boycotted 2010 elections as undemocratic, but ran in by-elections in 2012 after changes were made in election laws. It won 43 of the 45 seats it contested in both houses of Parliament, with Suu Kyi winning a seat in the lower house.

Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has said that “there will be more problems” if the constitution is not changed before the 2015 elections, though she has not said what would happen.

In October, Suu Kyi and her party launched an awareness campaign in many parts of the country to garner public support for amending the constitution.

Myanmar’s Parliament formed a Constitution Review Committee in July to recommend changes to the constitution before the 2015 elections. The 109-member committee includes lawmakers from all parties, including Suu Kyi’s party and President Thein Sein’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, along with the military’s allotted representatives.

The committee will collect suggestions from individuals, organisations and political parties and submit them to Parliament by the end of January.

The NLD decided at Saturday’s meeting to send suggestions on changing 168 points from 14 chapters of the constitution, including the article that disqualifies Suu Kyi from becoming president, said Win Myint, a senior party member.

Article 59 of the constitution says anyone whose spouse or children owes allegiance to a foreign power cannot become president or vice-president. Suu Kyi was married to the late British scholar Michael Aris, and her two sons are foreign citizens.

Constitutional amendments require the consent of more than 75 per cent of lawmakers, followed by more than 50 per cent approval in a nationwide referendum.

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