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Burma MPs block Suu Kyi leader bid

Published 25/06/2015

The vote means Aung San Suu Kyi cannot become president in an election this year
The vote means Aung San Suu Kyi cannot become president in an election this year

Burma's parliament has voted against proposed constitutional amendments, ensuring that the military's veto power remains intact and that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi cannot become president in an election this year.

The legislature ended a three-day debate on proposed changes to the 2008 constitution.

The constitution bars Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, from seeking the presidency and gives the military an effective veto over constitutional amendments. Changes to both those clauses were rejected today.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) is expected to see heavy gains against the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party in the polls.

The NLD swept the last free general election in 1990 but the then-ruling military junta ignored the results and kept Suu Kyi under house arrest for years.

"I am not surprised with the result. Those who didn't vote for the change have shown they are against change," Suu Kyi said.

The nation's transition from a half-century of brutal military rule to a nominally civilian government in 2011 was marked by early, fast-moving successes.

The release of Suu Kyi and hundreds of other political prisoners was a catalyst for the West to end years of diplomatic isolation of Burma and roll back sanctions.

But four years after President Thein Sein took office, the military has refused to loosen its grip on parliament or amend the junta-era constitution, which ensures the military's continuing influence in government. It gives the military a mandatory 25% of parliamentary seats, handing it veto power over any change in the constitution, which requires greater than 75% approval, followed by a nationwide referendum.

Thursday's vote rejected a proposal to trim the share of votes required to amend the constitution from over 75% to 70%, a change that would essentially have removed the veto power.

Many viewed the proposed amendment, which could have paved the way for more constitutional change, as key to Suu Kyi's chances for gaining eligibility for the presidency.

The parliament also rejected amending a clause that bars anyone whose spouse or children are loyal to foreign countries from becoming president or vice president. Suu Kyi's late husband and her two sons are British citizens. The proposed amendment would not have struck out the clause entirely, just dropped the reference to foreign spouses as an obstacle to candidacy.

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