NAYPYITAW – Myanmar’s majority National League for Democracy (NLD) moved on Thursday to consolidate the dominant role of Aung San Suu Kyi in the new cabinet, underscoring the divide between the party and the powerful army over the junta-drafted constitution.
The NLD tabled a special bill, mentioning Nobel peace laureate by name, that would create the post of a National Presidential Adviser, giving her freedom to coordinate intra-ministerial affairs and help influence the executive.
The position would likely allow Suu Kyi, who will also oversee ministries of education, energy and electric power, foreign affairs and the president’s office, to formally circumvent the constitution barring her from the presidency and allow her to rule “above the president”, as she has planned.
The bill, reviewed by Reuters, allows the adviser to “contact and deal with government ministries, departments, organisations and associations and individuals”.
“It is specifically designed for Aung San Suu Kyi…she will be a negotiator among various groups and she can call on the government and civil organisations to meet,” said Aung Kyi Nyunt, a lawmaker from the NLD who proposed the bill.
Suu Kyi, who spent years under house arrest because of her push for democracy, guided the NLD to a landslide win at the polls in November. But she cannot assume the presidency under the charter drafted by the former junta because her two sons are British citizens, as was her late husband.
Instead, the parliament swore in Htin Kyaw, a close friend and confidant of Suu Kyi, as its first president with no military ties in more than half a century on Wednesday.
“The whole world and the whole country know that the constitution must be amended. The military also needs to accept that,” said NLD’s Aung Kyi Nyunt.
The NLD’s bill will be discussed in the upper house on Friday, coinciding with the inauguration of Htin Kyaw’s five-year term. NLD lawmakers say they want to push it through before long public holidays starting on April 9.
The NLD has enough seats in both chambers to pass it.
The charter has been a bone of contention between Suu Kyi and the military, whose influential commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing, has reasserted the army’s political clout and warned against amending it quickly.
Relations between the armed forces and Suu Kyi will define the success of Myanmar’s most significant break from military rule since the army seized power in 1962.
The armed forces are guaranteed three ministries and control a quarter of parliamentary seats – enough to give them a veto over constitutional amendments and potentially limit the scope of Suu Kyi’s reforms.
Editing by Antoni Slodkowski and Nick Macfie