I can be leader if not prez, says Suu Kyi

New Delhi, October 7

Aung San Suu Kyi intends to lead a new Myanmar government if her party wins historic polls despite being barred from the presidency, she said in an interview to be broadcast today.

“If the NLD wins the elections and we form a government, I’m going to be the leader of that government whether or not I’m the president,” Suu Kyi told India Today television channel. “The leader of the NLD government will have to be me because I am the leader of my party,” she said, refusing to elaborate on any possible arrangement.

The November 8 parliamentary elections are seen as a key test of democratic progress in Myanmar, which in 2011 emerged from a half-century of military rule.

Suu Kyi won a seat in parliament in 2012 as the army eased its grip on power but is forbidden from seeking the presidency under rules which bar the post to a person who married and had children with a foreigner. The president — who is head of state as well as head of government — is chosen by parliament, including military members, in a vote after the election and must cease party politics on taking up the post.

He or she is responsible for forming the government, including a cabinet, making key regional appointments and signing off on parliamentary legislation.

Suu Kyi told India Today her National League for Democracy (NLD) party would nominate a civilian member for the official role of president should it win next month, rather than endorsing a military candidate.

She also urged voters to be “vigilant” on polling day, questioning the accuracy of electoral rolls and saying she feared the possibility of unrest which could force the polling stations to close.

The Nobel laureate’s party needs an overwhelming victory at the polls in order to hold sway over parliament where the military is guaranteed 25 percent of seats.

“This is the most important election in the history of independent Burma,” the 70-year-old said, using the former name for Myanmar.

“Vigilant, cautious, careful and very, very brave, that’s what we need people to be.”

Asked about widening ethnic divisions in the country of 51 million, where minorities make up about a third of the population, Suu Kyi acknowledged there were “worrying signs of religious intolerance”.

However, she defended herself against accusations she has failed to speak out on the plight of the displaced Rohingya Muslim minority in western Rakhine state, saying it was the wrong way to achieve reconciliation.