YANGON: Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi Thursday declared she will be “above the president” and run the government if her party wins this weekend’s landmark election, in defiant comments addressing a current ban on her taking top office.
The former junta-ruled country goes to the polls on Sunday in elections that could see the army’s decades-long grip on power substantially loosened.
Suu Kyi has towered over Myanmar’s politics after a decades-long struggle for democracy and her party is expected to make major gains at Sunday’s polls if the vote is free and fair.
Yet 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 have said I am going to be above the president,” Suu Kyi said in bullish remarks to reporters ahead of Sunday’s vote, which her National League for Democracy (NLD) party hopes to sweep.
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 told reporters gathered on the lawn of her Yangon home, the same mansion she was confined to during years of house arrest by the former generals.
Her 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.
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.
Polls in 1990 swept by the NLD were ignored by the military, while Suu Kyi’s opposition boycotted a 2010 election over fraud fears.
Reforms by the military since then have seen a quasi-civilian government take charge and guide sweeping changes leading to this weekend’s election.
Suu Kyi’s comments on Thursday are likely to be seen as both a challenge to the army’s parliamentary dominance and a rallying cry to her supporters who view her as the fulcrum of Myanmar’s democracy struggle.