YANGON: Myanmar’s parliament speaker said on late Tuesday the current junta-drafted constitution, which bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president, cannot be changed before elections in November 2015.
The comments by Shwe Mann came days after visiting United States President Barack Obama backed Suu Kyi’s attempts to change the charter.
The speaker said a nationwide referendum would be held next May on constitutional changes which are currently being thrashed out amid heated debate in the legislature.
“We cannot perform constitutional amendments straight after the referendum,” Shwe Mann told reporters in the capital Naypyidaw, adding it was “impossible to change [the charter]at this time” because of the scope of the likely changes.
On Monday the powerful military voiced strong opposition to significant changes to the constitution, including clause 59F which is widely thought to have been written specifically to thwart Suu Kyi.
Legislators will choose a new president after the general election next November.
But the veteran democracy campaigner cannot stand for the top post because the constitution bans those with a foreign spouse or children.
Her late husband and two sons are British.
‘Unfair, unjust and undemocratic’
Next year’s elections are seen as a crucial test of the credibility of reforms begun in 2011, when the junta stepped aside to make way for a quasi-civilian regime that remains dominated by former generals.
Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party are expected to make big gains at the polls—the first general election they have fought since they swept 1990 polls. The then-junta ignored the result.
But the party has so far declined to put forward an alternative candidate if Suu Kyi, 69, cannot stand for the presidency.
NLD Member of Parliament Min Thu told Agence France-Presse the party still “has hope” that Suu Kyi will be able to become president after the election.
“If people want it enough, everything will come true. Nothing can be done without the people’s desire,” he said.
The Nobel laureate, who has publicly declared her desire to be president, last week told Obama the constitution was “unfair, unjust and undemocratic,” and warned that Myanmar’s much vaunted reforms were stalling.
The US leader took up the issue, telling reporters at her lakeside home that “the amendment process needs to reflect inclusion rather than exclusion.”