Myanmar’s upper house of parliament approved a bill on March 30 that effectively places Nobel peace prize laureate and National League for Democracy (NLD) chair Aung San Suu Kyi as state councilor, a powerful government role that’s equivalent to being the nation’s de facto prime minister. Meanwhile, the Burmese military opposition has voiced vehement objection to this motion, deeming it unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, various figures from the military-backed opposition—the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP)—objected the bill on grounds of creating conflicts of interest for Aung San Suu Kyi due to her holding other positions in the new government and disrupting the balance of power due to the state councilor being on the same level as the president. The 70-year-old Aung San Suu Kyi is currently the head of the foreign, education, electric power and energy, and President’s Office ministries. With her being state councilor, she will have to juggle all said responsibilities, along with being the chairperson of NLD.
The NLD holds a majority in both upper and lower houses, thus not needing military approval. However, the party does not hold sufficient power to amend the constitution as this would require support of more than 75 percent of lawmakers. The 2008 Constitution of Burma has a provision that prevents anyone with foreign-born relatives from becoming president. In the case of Aung San Suu Kyi, her late husband and her two sons are British nationals.
Burma was then renamed into Myanmar in 1989 after the 8888 Uprising, which culminated from unrest over worsening conditions and saw thousands of protesters killed and another coup d’etat. The succeeding government then placed Myanmar under martial law. This, the rise of Aung San Suu Kyi as a would-be savior, and her resulting house arrest drew worldwide media attention on Myanmar.
The junta then arranged an election on May 27, 1990 in an effort to appease the masses. Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD won an overwhelming 392 of the 492 seats, prompting the junta to not recognize the results. The military government would remain in power until March 30, 2011, with the inauguration of the new government under then-President Thein Sein.
Thein Sein’s term saw major political reforms to facilitate transition from military dictatorship to civilian government with mixed results. He was also re-elected as the chairman of the USDP—in contradiction of the constitution that prohibits the president from taking part in party activities. He was then succeeded on March 30 by Htin Kyaw, an NLD member and the first elected civilian to become president of Myanmar since the 1962 coup d’etat.
[Image via AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe]