NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar: Myanmar’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi held “warm and open” talks with the president on the transfer of power from the military establishment, a minister said Wednesday, nearly a month after her opposition party cleaned up at the polls.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won nearly 80 percent of contested seats in a November 8 election that appears poised to end the military’s decades-long domination of the country.
Immediately after her party’s win Suu Kyi, who is blocked from the presidency by the army-written constitution, appealed for “national reconciliation” talks with President Thein Sein and the powerful army chief.
Both men have congratulated her on the NLD’s win and vowed to ensure a smooth handover of power to the opposition — an unprecedented moment in the country’s history.
But opposition supporters remain wary of a military establishment that has duped them before and crushed political opponents.
The new NLD lawmakers are not due to take their parliamentary seats until at least February, making for a nervous few months of transition.
The NLD won a similar scale landslide in 1990 polls, only to see the military annul the result and dig in for another two decades.
Nearly an hour of talks were held on Wednesday morning between Suu Kyi — a Nobel Peace Prize winner — and Thein Sein, a former top junta general who has shed his uniform to steer reforms over recent years.
“They discussed the peaceful transfer to the next government. The discussion was warm and open,” Information Minister Ye Htut who was at the meeting told reporters.
“We have no tradition of the peaceful (power) transfer to a new elected government since we gained independence in 1948. We will establish this tradition without fail,” he added.
The NLD confirmed the meeting in a Facebook page but gave no immediate details.
So far, so good
Observers have praised Myanmar for holding a peaceful and broadly free and fair election after half a century of authoritarian rule.
There are major challenges ahead, not least for the NLD’s lawmakers, who are political novices in a country beset by poverty, corruption and weak governance.
But early indications appear to show the army is for now willing to cede power to the elected government.
Suu Kyi is set to meet army chief Min Aung Hlaing in a separate meeting later on Wednesday, in a sign she is ready to do business with a military that once held her under house arrest.
The army has gradually relaxed its stranglehold on the country with reforms that began in 2011 under Thein Sein’s semi-civilian government.
The reforms culminated in the November election, which passed off successfully and saw the army-backed ruling party trounced at the polls.
Despite the humiliation of defeat, the military retains major influence.
It has 25 percent of all parliamentary seats guaranteed under the constitution as well as key security and bureaucratic posts that could put the brakes on an NLD government.
Minister Ye Htut also moved to deny rumors that the hand of feared former junta leader general Than Shwe is guiding the pace and depth of reforms.
“Senior General Than Shwe is really retired,” he said, adding the elderly former dictator “isn’t involved… in our government’s process of holding elections.”
Suu Kyi has vowed to rule from “above the president,” indicating she will appoint a proxy to the role to circumvent the charter block on her political rise.
The last election was held in 2010 but the NLD boycotted the poll, which saw Thein Sein’s Union Solidarity and Development Party take power.