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Burma’s Suu Kyi vows to be ‘above president’ in new govt

AFP / Romeo Gacad | Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at a press conference from her residential compound in Rangoon on November 5, 2015

Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Thursday she would be “above the president” if her party emerges victorious from an historic election this weekend, defying a constitutional ban on becoming head of state herself.

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Sunday’s general election will be the country’s first since a quasi-civilian government took power in 2011 after nearly 50 years of a military dictatorship, and is widely regarded as a referendum on Burma’s reform process.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) is expected to make major gains at the polls. The party won a landslide in the last open election in 1990, which was annulled by the junta.

But under the military-scripted constitution, the 70-year-old is barred from running for the presidency by a clause believed to have been written specifically to thwart her bid for the country's top office.

“I will be above the president,” a relaxed and smiling Suu Kyi told reporters in the country’s largest city Rangoon, in the Nobel laureate’s final press conference ahead of the vote.

“It is a very simple message. The constitution says nothing about someone being above the president.”

Asked to elaborate, she cryptically replied: "I have already made plans".

“I will run the government and we will have a president who will work in accordance with the policies of the NLD,” she added.

Suu Kyi’s path to the presidency is blocked by a charter clause outlawing those with foreign-born offspring taking the top post. Her two sons have British passports – their late father was a British academic.

Fraud and intimidation

Many hope Sunday's election will be the country's freest and fairest for a generation but concerns abound in a country with a long history of the army stifling democracy.

Suu Kyi said there had been irregularities in advance voting, fraud and intimidation in the run up to the November 8 election.

The long gap between the election and the new government taking power in February next year was also a cause for concern, she said, addressing reporters in a tent on the lawn in front of her Rangoon residence.

In a video at the start of her two-month campaign, she requested vigilance from the international community during the transition period, which she said was almost as important as a free and fair election.

The political activity of the radical Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha, which has sharply criticised the NLD for not supporting a raft of legislation seen as anti-Muslim drafted by the group, was unconstitutional, Suu Kyi said.

Suu Kyi said that the problems of the Rohingya, the country’s persecuted Muslim minority living in western Rakhine State, should not be exaggerated and that the whole country was experiencing a “dramatic situation” ahead of the vote.

Suu Kyi has been widely criticised for not speaking out enough on the Rohingya, who live in virtually apartheid-like conditions in Rakhine.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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