Myanmar draft charter bill still bars Suu Kyi presidency

Myanmar's ruling party on Thursday released a draft bill on changes to its junta-era constitution that could end an effective army veto on charter amendments, but still bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Myanmar's ruling party on Thursday released a draft bill on changes to its junta-era constitution that could end an effective army veto on charter amendments, but still bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency. -- PHOTO: AFP 

YANGON (AFP) - Myanmar's ruling party on Thursday released a draft bill on changes to its junta-era constitution that could end an effective army veto on charter amendments, but still bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency.

Her National League for Democracy (NLD) party is expected to sweep landmark elections, slated for November, but she is barred from the top job under a constitutional provision excluding those with a foreign spouse or children from the presidency.

The long-awaited draft bill published in state newspaper The Mirror on Thursday kept this provision under clause 59f but, in a slight relaxation, it no longer applies the ban to those whose Myanmar national children have married foreigners.

Ms Suu Kyi's late husband and two sons are British.

Her party has been fighting a longer battle to change this clause by campaigning for another change - an end to the army's veto on any constitutional amendments.

Under the current charter, any changes must be approved by more than 75 per cent of lawmakers giving the army an effective veto as it has a quarter of parliamentary seats reserved.

Under the draft bill, no more than 70 per cent of votes would be needed to approve charter amendments, making it easier for elected lawmakers to vote them through.

But the draft still needs to be approved by parliament - and military members have in previous debates vociferously opposed any reduction to their voting privileges.

The NLD, which has lobbied for this threshold on charter changes to be set at 50 percent, Thursday expressed reservations over the new bill.

"We haven't seen enough changes," party spokesman Nyan Win told AFP, without giving further comment.

Myanmar's upcoming elections are seen as a key test of the once pariah nation's transition towards democracy after decades of military rule.

Ms Suu Kyi has previously declined to rule out a boycott of the polls as her party struggles to amend the charter.

The NLD collected around five million signatures last year to end the constitutional ban on Ms Suu Kyi, who turns 70 next week, becoming president.