Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD) chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi, seen after a parliamentary session in Naypyidaw, on February 1, 2016 (AFP Photo/Ye Aung Thu)
Naypyidaw (Myanmar) – Myanmar’s parliament will bring forward a vote for the next president to March 10, it was announced on Tuesday, leaving little time for Aung San Suu Kyi to strike a deal to let her take the top office.
The democracy icon is currently banned from becoming president under the junta-era constitution.
Since her National League for Democracy (NLD) party’s crushing victory at elections in November, Suu Kyi has been locked in negotiations with the powerful military in hopes of unblocking her path to the presidency.
But news that the presidential vote has been brought forward by one week raises serious doubt about any deal.
“We are going to hold the meetings… for MPs to be able to elect the president and vice-presidents on March 10, Thursday, a week earlier than was previously announced,” Win Khaing Than, speaker of Myanmar’s combined houses of parliament, told lawmakers on Tuesday.
The handover from a half-century of military rule to a popularly elected government has been complex and drawn-out.
It is still unclear who will take over on March 31 from President Thein Sein, the former general who has steered dramatic reforms since 2011.
In typically cryptic comments on the leadership issue, NLD party spokesman Win Htein said the party stood behind an eventual Suu Kyi presidency.
“Aung San Suu Kyi must become the president… it just depends on whether it is earlier or later,” he told reporters in the capital Naypyidaw.
The current constitution bars those with foreign children and spouses from the top office. Her late husband was British, as are her two sons.
Suu Kyi has pledged to rule “above” whoever succeeds Thein Sein.
Myanmar’s powerful military is still allocated a quarter of all parliamentary seats and will choose one of three candidates for president.
The other two candidates will be chosen by the elected members of the lower and upper houses, which are dominated by the NLD.
The new president will emerge from a vote by the combined houses.
With its parliamentary bloc, the military holds an effective veto on constitutional change and will also retain other major political and economic powers.
The NLD is haunted by the memory of a 1990 elections which it won in a landslide. The junta blocked it from taking power.