Myanmar brings forward presidential vote

Aung San Suu Kyi (29 Feb 2016)Image copyright

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Aung San Suu Kyi has been in negotiations about possible changes to the constitution

The vote to appoint a new president in Myanmar has been brought forward by a week, to 10 March.

The move likely means an end to negotiations on whether the constitution could be amended so Aung San Suu Kyi could take the top job.

Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won a general election landslide victory in November and will take office at the end of March.

But she is barred by the constitution from being the president.

Clause 59F, widely seen as having been included to target her, means anyone who has foreign children cannot take the post.

She has consistently said she will effectively lead the country anyway.

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Army representatives still wield considerable clout in parliament

The original date for the nominations had been 17 March, which was seen as giving time for the NLD to negotiate with the military.

Analysis: Jonah Fisher, BBC News, Yangon

Aung San Suu Kyi may actually be stronger outside the presidency. Over several rounds of negotiation with the army it became clear that any deal would involve uncomfortable compromise.

Little was said officially, but it was suggested that the army might trade suspending Clause 59F for more power.

That was rumoured to include the positions of chief minister in sensitive states like Rakhine and Kachin and almost certainly included promises that the military’s political clout and financial muscle be left untouched.

It would have been a fudge and Ms Suu Kyi would have been accused of putting personal ambition over principle.

Now she must choose someone else to be president, and her main criteria is likely to be loyalty.

With an obedient puppet in place, she knows that all the president’s decision-making power will still ultimately rest with her.

These talks represented a chance for the Burmese army to show that it was moving with the times. It could have acknowledged that the people of Myanmar overwhelmingly voted in November for Ms Suu Kyi to lead.

Instead the message is “the army still knows best” with the military insisting on following the constitution it drafted to the letter.

With a huge majority in parliament and the ability to legislate as she wishes, Ms Suu Kyi may now decide she’s not in the mood to compromise either.

The new president will be elected by the upper and lower house from a list of three candidates put forward by MPs.

The NLD dominates both houses after taking 80% of contested seats in the election. But the military, which ran Myanmar for decades, still has an automatic 25% of all seats.

NLD official Win Htein told the BBC the party would now focus on trying to change the constitution from within.

“Aung San Suu Kyi will still become president anyhow. It’s only the matter of sooner or later,” he said.

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