Aung San Suu Kyi's presidential ambitions dim as constitution change blocked in Burma

Committee keeps six-year-old clause blocking anyone who has been married to a foreigner or has children of foreign citizenship

Asia Correspondent

The ambition of Aung San Suu Kyi to become Burma’s next president has been dealt a severe set-back after a committee voted not to change the country’s constitution which currently prevents her from holding the position.

Reports said only five members of the 31-member panel voted to change a clause in the constitution that says anyone who has been married to a foreigner or has children of foreign citizenship, cannot hold the nation’s top job.

The clause was introduced as part of a new constitution in 2008 by the military junta that then ran Burma in an attempt to ensure the democracy leader could not become president. Her late husband, the scholar Michael Aris, was British and her two children have foreign citizenship.

“Only five of the 31 committee members voted in favour of amending the section at the closed door meeting of the committee,” an unidentified member of the committee told the Reuters news agency.

Since she was released from years of house arrest at the end of 2010, Ms Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party have been pushing for constitutional change ahead of next year's election. In 2012, her party secured 43 seats in a series of by-elections. The 68-year-old Nobel laureate is currently on a four-day visit to Nepal, her first since she briefly taught there four decades ago.

The committee set up to look into the issue was mainly made up of members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) of  President Thein Sein. Over the past three years, the president has been overseeing a transformation of the country towards greater democracy and most of a long  list of sanctions imposed by the West have been suspended. The NLD only had two members on the committee.

It is possible the parliament, which contains a 25 per cent block of appointed former military officers, could yet vote to scrap article 59(F), which bars Ms Suu Kyi from Burma’s top position. Her party has pointed out that the committee’s recommendation is not binding and that parliament could still take a different decision.

“We can’t say Aung San Suu Kyi has no chance of becoming the president until the union parliament approves it,” said NLD spokesman Nyan Win. “We need to wait till the committee submits its final suggestions at the parliament.”

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