YANGON, Myanmar (MindaNews/06 November)—Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi vowed to pursue national reconciliation if her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), wins a majority of parliament seats in historic elections on Nov. 8.
“I do not believe in persecution and revenge. National reconciliation is the foundation for our movement to democracy,” the 70-year old Suu Kyi told more than 500 journalists who turned out in a press conference in her Yangon home Thursday.
Suu Kyi was responding to a question about how the NLD will deal with the military, called the Tatmadaw, if the party assumes power.
The military, which controlled state power since 1962, has been accused of various human rights violations. Many in the nominally civilian government that took power in 2011 were either active or retired military personnel.
Suu Kyi herself was placed under house arrest by the military. And although it won 52 percent of the votes in 1990, her party was not allowed by the military to form the government.
Suu Kyi said that an NLD government will be discerning with respect to the fate of policies and laws established by the junta-led government and the current one.
“We will not reject policies simply because they belong to the past governments,” she emphasized.
“What we think is good, we will keep. What we think is not, we will change,” she added.
The NLD is eyeing to garner most of the 498 of 664 seats in the bicameral national legislature up for grabs in Sunday’s polls that will see over 30 million voters trooping to more than 40,000 polling stations across the country’s 14 states and regions.
The 2008 Constitution reserves the remaining 25 percent of the parliament seats for military representatives.
Apart from the national legislature, voters also elect hundreds of representatives for regional and state parliaments which are also stocked with the same proportion of military representatives.
NLD strategist Win Htein told Channel News Asia they are expecting to get at least 50 percent of Sunday’s vote.
Asked about the chances of an NLD-led government being accepted by “all elements” of the military, Suu Kyi said that having “sufficient elements” backing them up “will be enough for us.”
Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution is glaringly silent on the civilian supremacy over the military, which is among the principal feature of democratic governments worldwide. Rather, it places the military as co-equal with the civilian government.
Apart from having unelected representatives in the national and regional parliaments, the military establishment nominates one of three candidates from whom the parliament votes to become the
“We have to win strongly enough to be able to negotiate a democratic way forward,” Suu Kyi emphasized.
Among others, the NLD’s election manifesto points to the need for amending the country’s basic charter, which Suu Kyi describes as “a silly Constitution,” so that it conforms to “basic human rights and democratic standards.”
The NLD also said that it will set out to have the military come “under the aegis of the executive branch.”
Although the 2008 Constitution bars Suu Kyi from being nominated for the presidency, she said she is prepared to lead the country via the party, if the NLD is able to muster “the requisite strength in the legislature” during Sunday’s polls.
“We have somebody who is prepared to represent the NLD as president,” she said, although she did not identify the party personality.
And how would she play a role in that government?
Suu Kyi said she will be “above the president.”
“The Constitution did not mention about (restrictions on) somebody being above the president,” she said.
[This article originally appeared in Mindanews. It was written by Ryan Rosauro while on fieldwork for the 2015 Fellowship.]