Ethnic minority MPs receive Suu Kyi’s boost

Yangon, January 20

Aung San Suu Kyi’s victorious opposition party nominated three ethnic minority politicians Wednesday for prominent roles in the country’s new parliament, a boost to a demographic who have long complained of exclusion.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy swept up nearly 80 percent of the seats in elections last November, beating out many ethnic minority parties who had been expected to do well on their home turf in the country’s restive border regions.

But today, her party nominated four MPs for speaker positions in the two parliamentary houses that will convene next month, NLD spokesperson Nyan Win told AFP, including three ethnic minority MPs.

The country’s hotchpotch of minorities, many of whom have fought decades long civil wars with the central government, have often chafed at their treatment by the Bamar majority who form much of the military, economic and political elite.

In recent weeks Suu Kyi, an ethnic Bamar herself, has emphasised her commitment to making minority aspirations a central pillar of her administration.

The nominated candidates include two of the party’s own MPs — Win Khaing Than, an ethnic Karen, and spokesman U Win Myint — for upper and lower house speaker, party spokesperson Nyan Win said.

The other nominations for deputy speakers are an ethnic Rahkine from the Arakan National Party, and an ethnic Kachin from the incumbent military-backed party, he added. All of the candidates will need to be approved in a parliamentary vote after both houses convene on February 1. But given the NLD’s landslide success at the polls it is likely the four nominations will be approved. The move comes after the military released the names of 166 unelected military officers who will serve as parliamentarians.

The powerful military are guaranteed a quarter of seats under a clause in a constitution penned by the former junta, a provision which gives them a de facto veto on any constitutional changes.

It’s still unknown who will be chosen as a candidate for president, a post 70-year-old Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from taking under a clause banning those with close foreign relatives from top political office. Her sons and late husband are British. She has however indicated that she will pick a president and rule “above” them, without explaining how this will work.