Blocked from presidency, Suu Kyi set for Myanmar cabinet
March 22 2016 12:06 PM
Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi gets a formal position


Aung San Suu Kyi was nominated as a cabinet minister in Myanmar's civilian government on Tuesday, giving the democracy veteran a formal position despite being blocked from the presidency in a nation ruled for decades by the military.

The Nobel laureate, who has vowed to rule above the next president Htin Kyaw, was named first in a list of ministers read out to lawmakers by the parliament speaker, who did not specify which position she or others would hold.

"I hereby present the list of names for those who should become union ministers, proposed to the parliament by the president-elect," parliament speaker Mann Win Khaing Than told MPs.

A parliamentary vote to confirm the posts is expected later in the week.

Observers say Suu Kyi is likely to take the role of foreign minister, giving her a cabinet post, international clout and a seat at the country's influential Security Council, which is dominated by the still hugely powerful military.

Under Myanmar's complex political rules, the cabinet role means she will likely have to forego her formal position as head of her National League for Democracy, which she led to a stunning victory in historic November elections that were the freest in generations.

Suu Kyi, 70, is the daughter of Myanmar's independence hero and has towered over the country's democracy movement as the figurehead of its spirited, non-violent struggle against decades of military rule.

Her ban from the presidency has been a thorn in the side of her party since it was allowed a space in parliament under the out-going quasi-civilian government led by President Thein Sein, a retired general.

She is barred from the presidency by the junta-drafted constitution because her late husband, British academic Michael Aris, and two sons are British.

'Heart of government'

Suu Kyi has held several rounds of talks with army chief Min Aung Hlaing since the NLD scored a thundering majority in the elections, but was unable to remove the constitutional barrier that obstructs her path to the top political job.

Taking a role in the cabinet puts an end to speculation that she would opt for a position akin to India's Sonia Gandhi, who wielded huge influence over her Congress party's administration despite having no official government role.

"She wants to be at the heart of government. She wants to do it properly, and formally, and, this is important to her, legally," said Trevor Wilson, an academic at the Australian National University and former ambassador to Myanmar.

He added that she would now be able to maintain a "very close eye on things that are important to her".

The incoming president, Htin Kyaw, is seen as having absolute loyalty to Suu Kyi as her long-term confidante and ally.

But his novice administration faces a raft of challenges - including conflict in ethnic minority border areas, entrenched poverty and the need to rapidly improve the country's decrepit infrastructure and long-neglected education and health services.

Another key challenge will be smoothing relations with the army that locked up Suu Kyi and other NLD politicians for years during their campaign against oppressive junta rule.


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