Suu Kyi's party to run in national polls

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said her National League for Democracy party will redouble efforts to change the Constitution after the polls, where 30 million voters will cast their votes.
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said her National League for Democracy party will redouble efforts to change the Constitution after the polls, where 30 million voters will cast their votes.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Barred from Myanmar presidency, she has 'a plan' despite no obvious second candidate

YANGON • Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has said her party will contest the national election in November, ending months of uncertainty about its participation in a vote that will be crucial for the country's reforms.

The Nobel laureate has laid the groundwork for running in the Nov 8 parliamentary poll, but her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), had held out until now to commit to a ballot that is being billed as Myanmar's first legitimate election in 25 years.

"This decision to run in the election was made to continue the unfinished democratisation process for the country," Ms Suu Kyi told a news conference in the capital Naypyitaw on Saturday.

"If the NLD won the election, national reconciliation will be the first priority. To make a country develop, stability in politics, (the) economy and various sectors are very important," she added.

"If the NLD runs the government, we will prioritise this."

STABILITY NEEDED

If the NLD won the election, national reconciliation will be the first priority. To make a country develop, stability in politics, (the) economy and various sectors are very important. If the NLD runs the government, we will prioritise this.

MS AUNG SAN SUU KYI

Flanked by senior party figures at the press conference, a determined Ms Suu Kyi said her opposition knew she would be "debarred" from the presidency.

She said there was "a plan" in place to get around the fact that the party had yet to name a potential candidate for the leadership if it wins at the polls, though she declined to reveal details.

"We are not going to the election without having an idea of how we intend to handle this problem," Ms Suu Kyi said.

She added that the party would redouble efforts to change the Constitution after the polls.

"If the NLD wins in the election, we will amend the Constitution," she told journalists.

Ms Suu Kyi will run in the constituency of Kawhmu, a delta town outside the city of Yangon.

With Ms Suu Kyi barred from the top job and no obvious second candidate within the NLD, there has been widespread speculation that the party could end up supporting a presidential candidate outside its ranks. Experts fear that horse-trading between the election and the announcement of presidential candidates several months later could trigger instability in the nation, where the military has a history of crushing dissent.

The election presents a rare opportunity for Myanmar's roughly 30 million voters to cast their votes in a nationwide poll contested by the country's main opposition.

The NLD won the national polls in 1990 by a landslide while Ms Suu Kyi was under house arrest.

But it was prevented from taking power by the military.

Ms Suu Kyi spent some 15 years under house arrest and was locked up during the last general election in 2010, which was boycotted by the NLD and marred by accusations of cheating. But Ms Suu Kyi and 44 of her party members now sit in Parliament after a 2012 by-election, held as part of sweeping reforms under a quasi-civilian government following the end of outright military rule in 2011.

A pressing concern for the party in recent weeks has been the status of official voter lists, with election officials acknowledging that those displayed across the country are riddled with inaccuracies.

Ms Suu Kyi reiterated that the lists need to be corrected if the elections were to be free and fair, as President Thein Sein promised again after the poll date was announced last Wednesday.

The former general has been cheered by the international community for unleashing political and economic reforms that have cracked open the country's isolation, sparking the end of most Western sanctions.

But as elections loom, fears have grown that the nation, which was ruled by the military for nearly half a century, might be back-pedalling on its democratic transition.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2015, with the headline 'Suu Kyi's party to run in national polls'. Print Edition | Subscribe