Myanmar lawmakers to speed up president selection: MPs

Suu Kyi is currently barred from top political office by a junta-era constitution because her children are foreign born, as was her late husband.

AFP| Updated: Feb 29, 2016, 20:20 PM IST

Naypyidaw: Myanmar MPs on Monday said Parliament is expected to speed up the process of selecting a new president, who will serve as a proxy for newly-elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as political tensions mount.

Lawmakers and the powerful military were due to put forward their nominations for presidential candidates -- a role barred to Suu Kyi by the constitution -- by March 17, but a parliamentary schedule for Tuesday indicates the legislature is poised to make a last minute alteration.

Observers have said the date for the presidential nomination had been set as late as possible to allow Suu Kyi time to negotiate with the army over the constitution, but talks do not appear to have led to any breakthroughs.

"There will be date amendment in tomorrow`s parliament meeting. It is likely that it will announce the nomination a week earlier than planned," said a member of parliament for Suu Kyi`s National League for Democracy (NLD), speaking on condition of anonymity.

Other parliament sources told AFP the date was expected to be brought forward, although it was not clear why.

Voters in Myanmar`s historic November elections have waited almost four months to know who will replace outgoing President Thein Sein, who leaves office on March 31 after a protracted political handover.

Suu Kyi is currently barred from top political office by a junta-era constitution because her children are foreign born, as was her late husband.

She has vowed to circumvent that provision by ruling "above" the president, citing her electoral mandate but not revealing her chosen proxy candidate.

This would potentially put her at loggerheads with the military, which retains significant political and economic power, despite loosening its chokehold on the country in 2011 by handing over to Thein Sein`s quasi-civilian regime.

Lawmakers are set to nominate three presidential candidates, one by each of the lower and upper chambers and one from the army, which holds 25 percent of parliament`s seats and an effective veto on major charter change.

The new president will then be chosen by a vote of the combined houses, now dominated by an overall NLD majority following the November vote.

Political uncertainty has fuelled feverish speculation that Suu Kyi and her party would try to change or suspend a part of the constitution.

But recent meetings between the Nobel laureate and army chief Min Aung Hlaing do not appear to have led to any major developments, while the military and government have publicly rejected the possibility of a quick change to the charter.

Political tensions have also been rising, with the new parliament led by Suu Kyi`s party tabling several recent motions critical of Thein Sein`s outgoing government, leading to a boycott of the legislature by some ministers.