YANGON • Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has declared she will be "above the president" and run the government if her National League for Democracy (NLD) wins this weekend's elections, in defiant comments addressing a ban on her taking top office.
Under the military-scripted Constitution, the 70-year-old is barred from running for the presidency.
"If we win, and the NLD forms a government, I will be above the president. It's a very simple message," a relaxed and smiling Ms Suu Kyi told reporters yesterday at her home in Yangon. "I will run the government and we will have a president who will work in accordance with the policies of the NLD."
When asked if this arrangement violated the Constitution, she replied that it "says nothing about somebody being above the president".
It states, however, that the president "takes precedence over all other persons" in Myanmar. Ms Suu Kyi's remarks are likely to be seen as a challenge to the army's parliamentary dominance and a rallying cry to her supporters, who view her as the fulcrum of the democracy struggle.
"Aung San Suu Kyi is playing hardball," said Dr Nicholas Farrelly, a Myanmar specialist at the Australian National University . "She is insistent that a hypothetical NLD mandate is her personal mandate."
Her comments were rebutted by Mr Zaw Htay, a senior official at the President's Office, who said they were "against the constitutional provision". The Constitution also bars presidential candidates with foreign spouses or children. She has two sons with a late British academic.
"While the Constitution is far from perfect... it still serves as the basis for Myanmar's current political system, including the elections this weekend," said Mr Nyantha Maw Lin, managing director at political consultancy Vriens & Partners in Yangon.
Many hope Sunday's polls will be the country's freest and fairest for a generation. But the Nobel laureate also struck a note of caution over the of reforms so far, labelling them "a veneer", while questioning the will of officials to tackle irregularities. Asked how vigilant she was to the possibility of poll fraud, she said if suspicions are raised "we will have to make a fuss about it".
But she added it was important for her party to run a government of "national reconciliation" if the NLD wins, adding: "I do not believe in persecution or revenge."
She also urged the international community not to get ahead of itself and called for a "healthy dose of scepticism" towards the polls.
She also said that the problems of the Rohingya, the country's persecuted Muslim minority living in western Rakhine State, should not be exaggerated when "our whole country is in a dramatic situation".
"I am not saying that this is a small problem," she was quick to add, saying that her party, if victorious, would secure everybody in the country "proper protection in accordance with the law".
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS