Burma: What’s next for Aung San Suu Kyi after elections?

Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD will win the elections in Burma and she already indicated she will be above president. What do you think her political strategy will be/should be, in your opinion, what is her vision for Burma as the country still faces many political, ethnic problems? Read few comments.

Marco BünteAssociate Professor of Politics and International Relations, Monash University

I feel that she will declare the victory for her party after the elections in order to lead the negotiations in the week ahead. The elections are important – depending on the outcome – but far more important will be the negotiation skills in the weeks ahead. The president will be chosen (presumably in March) by the diverse groups within the different chambers of Parliament. The Upper House and Lower House have to decide on a candidate, the Armed Forces have to decide on one. In March, a special session in March decides on the candidate.

Depending on the election outcome, we might see Thein Sein, Shwe Mann or the Army Chief running against an NLD candidate. The ethnic groups in the end might face tough choices.

Frankly, I do not understand Aung San Suu Kyi’s words “she will be above the government or above the head of state”. Basically, it means that she will lead and feels able to do so since institutions are so weak in Myanmar. Yet, it is not wise because it carries a note of confrontation. At the same time, she indicated she will lead a national reconciliation government. It is of utmost importance to keep the spirit of compromise during the months ahead and we will see whether Aung San Suu Kyi can lead in the sense of forming winning coalitions or whether she will be sidelined by actors who are willing to struck a deal. But one has to say, all scenarios depend on the election outcome which is not yet known.

Trevor WilsonVisiting Fellow, Department of Political & Social Change, Australian National University

I expect that if ASSK wins in the election, and becomes the head of government in Myanmar, she would dedicate herself to some form of permanent reconciliation with the ethnic communities. This is important for her, because she cannot survive politically unless she can find real allies among the ethnic groups. This would also help solve some economic problems as the ethnic groups hold many of the keys to future economic development, and the NLD has no real alternative economic development policy.

To do this, she will need to negotiate separately with the army, which would have to give up some of its economic rights, but perhaps she could promise not to hold them accountable for past human rights abuses. But they would have to give up some of their exclusive economic privileges, and conform with Myanmar law on human rights, land rights, etc. The army would not come out of this too badly.

What would happen with conservative groups such as the monks, the Arakanese, the business cronies, the retired generals and civil servants, I am not sure.  They might form a conservative party to oppose the NLD, but unless they join forces, they will not succeed. Their main common interest is in not being held accountable for past bribery, corruption, etc.

Nicholas FarrellyResearch Fellow, School of International, Political and Strategic Studies, and Director, ANU-IU Pan Asia Institute, Australian National University

Aung San Suu Kyi is looking to complete her destiny. For a quarter century she has imagined that the wrong of her father’s premature and tragic death can be righted by her struggle against military rule.

But she does not have a magic wand. Most of the old problems will remain and after this vote there will be new challenges, especially because expectations are going to be so high.

She will do best if she seeks to compromise with her enemies. The alternatives could prove dangerously destabilising.

Jason Abbott, Director, Center for Asian Democracy, Associate Professor, Political Science, University of Louisville

Well no-one quite knows what she meant exactly.

The harsh reality is that she is constitutionally barred from becoming President because she was married to a Brit and has sons who have British citizenship.

To amend the constitution needs 75% of votes in parliament. Since the military are guaranteed 25% even if Suu Kyi’s party won every seat up for grabs she’d be short unless there was defection from the military appointees.

The President is also elected by parliament and not by popular vote. The military and both houses each appoint one nomination. The one with most votes gets the post with the others as Vice-President.

Clearly Suu Kyi expects to win and all of the results counted so far suggest her party may win more than the 67% of seats needed to govern as a majority (since the military control 25% of seats). In this case she will have enormous moral legitimacy to rule and so her comments may be invoking this while remaining cautious enough to avoid any action against her from the military. With a landslide victory under her belt who knows what might potentially happen next?

Constitutionally she could be elected speaker of the lower house or indeed President of the joint Union legislature both of which would give her a) a highly visible political leadership role and b) some albeit limited executive powers.


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