Thursday, September 21, 2017

NLD to bring forward presidential nomination

Parliment will today accelerate the process of selecting Myanmar’s next president, with the National League for Democracy having all but given up on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi being able to lead the incoming government.

Representatives attend a parliament session in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday. Photo: EPARepresentatives attend a parliament session in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday. Photo: EPA

The party had previously set March 17 as the deadline for parliament to nominate three presidential candidates, one of whom will become president. According to today’s parliamentary agenda the date will change, with some suggestions that nominees could be announced as soon as March 9.

The March 17 deadline was later than expected, and appeared to be an attempt to buy more time to negotiate with the military on the constitution.

But events in recent weeks have made clear to the NLD that the military is unwilling to consider amendment or suspension of section 59(f), which bars Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency. A meeting with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on February 17 was tense and ended without any major agreement.

“We took time in the hope that we could negotiate with the military to suspend section 59(f),” a senior party official said yesterday. “But now we accept that this can’t happen so we have given up on this plan. We’re reverting to our previous plan, which was to nominate a proxy president instead of Daw Aung San San Suu Kyi.”

As The Myanmar Times reported on February 26, the party will instead revert to its original plan of nominating a proxy president. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will take another position within the government, most likely foreign minister, which would give her a seat on the National Defence and Security Council.

Daw Suu eyes foreign minister role, plus leading proxy candidates

Yesterday, the party issued a statement announcing the formation of a five-member committee led by U Win Htein that is tasked with managing and controlling the party after “reliable” party members are elevated to the government.

Under Myanmar’s constitution, members of the government cannot take part in party activities.

The new team will also comprise Pyithu Hluttaw Speaker U Win Myint, U Zaw Myint Maung, U Nyan Win and U Han Thar Myint, according to the statement.

A senior NLD official, who asked not to be named, confirmed yesterday that the nomination date would be brought forward, but the new date was not yet known.

“I cannot say exactly but parliament is likely to set March 9 to nominate the presidential nominees,” said the official.

The date change follows a meeting of all 15 NLD central executive members in Nay Pyi Taw on February 28. While they insisted they did not discuss the presidency, U Tun Tun Hein confirmed yesterday that the date for nominations was raised.

“Parliament announced March 17 as the deadline to submit nominations for the president, so parliament can fix the exact date to start this process,” he said. “But I don’t know why the party decided to change the date. That wasn’t discussed at yesterday’s party meeting.”

Sources within the party said that a war of words with the government and the military late last week over a spate of controversial privatisations and tenders was another factor in the decision to bring the process forward, as it highlighted how easily transition talks could be derailed.

In the wake of the dispute, the government said it did not believe it needed to be accountable to the current parliament, and would not send government officials to respond to questions or proposals.

The NLD may also have been concerned about leaving a window of less than two weeks between selecting the president and taking office.

Local politicians said yesterday that they agreed with the NLD’s decision to choose a proxy as it would avoid confrontation with the military.

Analysis: Outsourcing the presidency – the problem of a proxy

“Negotiations between the military chief and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi have been completed but nobody knows what kind of compromise was reached between them,” said U Sai Nyunt Lwin, general secretary of the Shan National League for Democracy, which is close to the NLD. “My personal view is that there was no good result for the NLD.”

He said the February 25 proposal on the government’s privatisation program, submitted by MP Daw Khin San Hlaing, had created “tension” between the government, military and NLD.

“In this situation, it’s better to get the president selected as soon as possible so they have more time to prepare for forming the government,” U Sai Nyunt Lwin said.

In an effort to avoid further confrontation with the military prior to the handover, Pyithu Hluttaw Speaker U Win Myint has instructed MPs from the NLD and allied ethnic parties to “stay away” from sensitive issues that “could deviate from the peaceful transfer of power”, sources said.

In an effort to relieve the tension, the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw will take a break from March 2 to 6.