Suu Kyi sure of party win 'if polls can be free and fair'

Ms Aung San Suu Kyi said that her long-cloistered country, Myanmar, still has a long way before it can be called democratic.
Ms Aung San Suu Kyi said that her long-cloistered country, Myanmar, still has a long way before it can be called democratic.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

She raises concerns about irregularities in run-up to Myanmar's polls

NAYPYITAW • Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has said she was confident her opposition party would win Myanmar's landmark polls if they were free and fair, but raised concerns over the country's march towards democracy.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, in an interview on Tuesday, said she expected her National League for Democracy (NLD) to secure a majority in November's elections - the first nationwide poll it has contested for 25 years in a country straitjacketed for almost half a century by military rule. The party won by a landslide in 1990, but was barred by the military from taking power.

Asked if she was confident of winning a dominant share of seats, Ms Suu Kyi replied: "If the elections are free and fair, of course."

"I think looking at the governments which have gone before us, we should be in a position to form a better government," she said in some of her most sanguine comments yet as Myanmar approaches an election many hope will be the freest in its modern history.

Ms Suu Kyi, 70, led her opposition party into Parliament after the current quasi-civilian government replaced military rule in 2011.

BETTER GOVERNMENT

I think looking at the governments which have gone before us, we should be in a position to form a better government.''

MS AUNG SAN SUU KYI, who is leading her National League for Democracy to the polls in November

But Myanmar's junta-era Constitution blocks her pathway to the presidency, and a recent attempt to change it was quashed by the still- powerful military and its allies.

And the veteran campaigner said she was "very concerned" about irregularities in the run-up to the polls, stressing that the long-cloistered country still has a long way before it can be called democratic.

Ms Suu Kyi said her party was concerned that it was a target of rivals "using religion for political purposes" as the Buddhist-majority nation grapples with the increasing influence of radical nationalist monks.

Scant progress had been made, she said, in two complaints filed with the election authorities over cases in which rivals started "attacking" the NLD during religious ceremonies. "What you are asking, are we concerned about irregularities about fraud and so on and of course we are very concerned," she said.

Earlier this month, President Thein Sein ousted rival Mr Shwe Mann from his party leadership in a move seen as an effort by the army to tighten its grip ahead of polls. "We are supposed to be going along the path of democratisation but events over the last couple of weeks show that we are not very far along that path yet," she said of the incident.

Reforms in recent years have sent investors swooping into long-isolated Myanmar. Reflecting on the changes in the country, Ms Suu Kyi said the dramatic proliferation of mobile phones had started to have a political effect. "People are more widely aware of what is going on and our people are less likely to take things lying down because they feel a sense of solidarity standing up against injustice and oppression."

Ms Suu Kyi confirmed that the NLD would reveal its candidate for president only after the polls. But she said the nominee would come from within the party.

Known to some supporters as the "iron butterfly" for her unwavering determination, Ms Suu Kyi indicated she had shed some ideals.

"I am not working towards freedom from fear, I am a practical politician working to win the next elections," she said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2015, with the headline 'Suu Kyi sure of party win 'if polls can be free and fair''. Print Edition | Subscribe