Suu Kyi the centre of attention as Parliament returns

17 November 2015
Suu Kyi the centre of attention as Parliament returns
National League for Democracy Chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi, centre, arrives to attend a session of Parliament in Naypyitaw on 15 November 2015. Photo: Hong Sar/Mizzima

Yesterday Aung San Suu Kyi was mobbed by supporters and journalists when she returned to Parliament for the first time since her landslide victory. However, she was steadfast in refusing to make any comments on the transition to democracy, her negotiations with the military or, perhaps more importantly, who she intends to put forward as the next potential President of Myanmar.
Suu Kyi has re-entered Parliament in a curious position; she is both an ordinary MP and the most powerful person in Parliament at the same time.
Due to a constitutional quirk, the recently defeated Union Solidarity and Development Party will continue to dominate Parliament until the National League for Democracy led Parliament convenes for the first time.
Suu Kyi has previously criticised the long handover process as "very silly".
In the interim, negotiations will be taking place about who will become the country's President.
Suu Kyi is barred from the position due to section 59 (f) of the constitution, which prevents anybody who has a foreign spouse or children from holding Myanmar's top office.
The NLD will need to carefully consider who it puts forward for the position. Suu Kyi is now 70 years old and even though she has only just claimed power, it would be sensible to at least consider who might assume the mantle if she were to fall ill.
The party's second in command, Chairman U Tin Oo, is 88 years old.
It is possible, therefore, that the party will consider putting forward a younger candidate who can act as the prodigy of Suu Kyi and be unlikely to challenge her authority, as she assumes an unconstitutional role "above the President".
The National League for Democracy (NLD) will, however, dominate the legislature until the next election, expected in 2020. The party has so far claimed 330 seats out of 440 seats in the House of Representatives and 168 seats out of 224 in the House of Nationalities. This means the NLD will have a majority in both chambers in Parliament and the ability to choose the next president but unable to amend the constitution, which requires 75% + 1.
This means changing the constitution requires that all democratically elected parties agree and there is at least one sympathetic military MP, as under the constitution the military are granted 25% of the seats.
The current president, Thein Sein, has pledged that his party will respect the NLD's electoral success. In his first public appearance since the election, he told a meeting of political parties: "The election is the result of our reform process and as we promised, we were able to hold it very successfully", adding "We will hand this process (of reform) on to a new government".
It now remains to be seen who will be Suu Kyi’s choice for president and, ultimately, successor.