Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), appears to have conceded their hopes for her to be Myanmar’s next president. Ms Suu Kyi may, instead, be offered a senior position in the Myanmar government, which observers expect to be that of Foreign Minister.
It was announced that the vote in the Parliament of Myanmar to appoint a new president for the country would be brought forward by a week to 10 March.
This has been read as a concession, on the part of Ms Suu Kyi and the NLD, of the presidential hopes of Myanmar’s pro-democracy icon. An NLD spokesman insisted that Ms Suu Kyi would still be president “sooner or later”.
These latest developments emerged after the last meeting on 17 February between Aung San Suu Kyi and Min Aung Hlaing, the most senior general in Myanmar and its commander-in-chief, which was described as being tense and inconclusive.
The only thing clear to have emerged from that meeting was that Ms Suu Kyi had abandoned hopes of amending the clause in the constitution which bars her from the presidency. This was revealed by an unnamed senior NLD official.
General Min Aung Hlaing is likely to have been concerned about a clause in the constitution of Myanmar, which states that the powers of appointing the country’s commander-in-chief lie with the President. Should Ms Suu Kyi assume the presidency, his own future in the military would be left uncertain.
The general clearly desires to hold on to his current position. He recently had his term extended for another five years, contrary to the existing regulations, which require that the commander-in-chief retires at the age 60. Hlaing reaches that age this year.
There is also the fear among Myanmar’s generals that they could be prosecuted for crimes they had committed during the period of military rule.
Rumours, as reported by the BBC, were that the generals were willing to concede to an Aung San Suu Kyi presidency and amend the constitutional clause that bars her from the office.
But what the generals wanted in return were the positions of chief minister in sensitive states in Myanmar like Rakhine and Kachin. This would have been clearly unacceptable to the NLD. To give in to such demands would have seriously compromised the credibility of the NLD, which would then be seen as selling itself out for the sake of Ms Suu Kyi’s personal ambitions for the presidency.
Foreign Minister: a bad deal?
Taking on the role of Myanmar’s foreign minister will place Ms Suu Kyi in an awkward position. As Myanmar’s top diplomat in that role, she will be the face of Myanmar to the world, engaging in the daily business of international affairs.
Yet the rulers of the country remain the military generals, with whom she does not see eye-to-eye.
She would be forced to be an apologist for generals, on the international stage – which must be precisely what the generals have in mind.
Worst of all, Ms Suu Kyi would have to resign from the leadership of the NLD. A constitutional clause prevents members of the Myanmar government from participating in the activities of political parties.
She would therefore do best by nominating a candidate for the presidency who would be her “proxy”. This signifies a return to her original strategy of positioning herself as being above the president, which she campaigned on during the November 2015 general election.
The names of contenders thrown out so far by those in NLD circles attest to this plan. One of them is U Tin Myo Win, the personal physician of Ms Suu Kyi.