Myanmar govt, Suu Kyi party tussle over handover ceremony

Aung San Suu Kyi meets with parliament members of National League for Democracy (NLD) party on March 1, 2016.
Aung San Suu Kyi meets with parliament members of National League for Democracy (NLD) party on March 1, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar (AFP) - Aung San Suu Kyi's party on Friday (March 4) said that outgoing Myanmar President Thein Sein was snubbing part of their handover ceremony plans, as tensions over the looming political transition begin to pervade even logistical arrangements.

A sweeping win in November elections trouncing Thein Sein's army-backed party has given Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy their first chance in a generation to form a government although the pro-democracy leader is barred from the presidency.

Thein Sein, whose quasi-civilian government is credited with steering the country from outright military rule, will end his five-year term later this month and there will be a ceremonial handover of power to a new leader who is yet to be named.

The President sought to appear magnanimous in defeat in November, but there have been recent signs of tensions with a new NLD-led parliament that took its seats in February.

NLD spokesman Win Htein indicated the location of the handover ceremony was the latest cause for contention between the government and the incoming party.

New lawmakers tabled several motions critical of the outgoing government last week, leading to a boycott of the legislature by some ministers.

"The government sent a proposal to hold the power handover ceremony at the presidential palace. But we want to hold the ceremony in the parliament because the president is chosen in the parliament," he told reporters in Naypyidaw on Friday, suggesting that the current compromise was for both sides to have their own way.

"President Thein Sein will not attend the ceremony which will be held in the parliament but he will meet the new president and handover the power at the presidential palace," he said.

Zaw Htay, director of the president's office, told AFP that in fact the arrangements were still in the "negotiation process".

The NLD is expected to reveal its nomination for president after March 10.

The parliament's two houses and the 25 per cent military bloc in the legislature will select one candidate each and a president will then be selected out of the three in a vote in the combined houses which are dominated by the NLD.

Suu Kyi is barred from selection due to a clause in the 2008 junta-era constitution which prohibits those with foreign close relatives from high political office. Suu Kyi's sons are British.

She has vowed to rule "above" the next leader without revealing details.