Suu Kyi ‘likely’ to stand in Myanmar by-election

Myanmar’s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is likely to contest an upcoming by-election, a party spokesperson said on Saturday, paving the way for a political comeback after years of exclusion by army generals.

Her National League for Democracy (NLD), delisted last year for boycotting the first elections for 20 years, will consider on Friday whether to re-register as a political party after Myanmar’s president recently approved changes to the registration laws.

“The NLD is likely to register and also Daw Suu is likely to participate at the coming by-election,” Nyan Win, a party spokesperson told Agence France-Presse. Daw is a term of respect.

It is not yet clear when a by-election will be held but there are more than 40 seats available in Parliament’s two chambers.

Suu Kyi swept the NLD to election victory in 1990 but the party was barred from taking office and it shunned last year’s vote largely because of rules that would have forced it to expel imprisoned members. Suu Kyi was under house arrest at the time.

Locked up for 15 of the past 22 years, the 66-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner was released from her latest stint in detention a few days after last November’s poll, which was widely condemned as a farce by the West.

The new army-backed government has, however, surprised critics with a string of reformist steps, such as defying ally China by freezing work on an unpopular mega-dam in the north and holding direct talks with Suu Kyi.

The daughter of Myanmar’s independence hero Aung San, who was assassinated in 1947, Suu Kyi took on a leading role in the pro-democracy movement in 1988, the year that protests erupted against the military and were brutally crushed.

Widely known as “The Lady” in Myanmar, she became a beacon of hope for many in her country in the face of repression but was widely feared by the military rulers.

While Myanmar’s nominally civilian government is still filled with former generals, the government said in September it was ready to work with Suu Kyi and her party if they officially re-entered politics.

A decision to re-register is widely expected, with 100 senior NLD members gathering in Yangon on Friday to discuss the move.

Nyan Win did not comment on which constituency Suu Kyi would stand in, or what kind of position she expected, but party sources said she would contest in a Yangon township.

‘Real changes’
His comments came a day after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Myanmar needed to do “much more” to improve human rights, despite her belief that “real changes” were underway.

“We continue to call for the unconditional release of all political prisoners and an end to the violence in ethnic minority areas,” she told reporters at an Asia-Pacific summit in Hawaii.

Myanmar’s law on political parties amended this month, and endorsed by President Thein Sein, removes the condition that all parties must agree to “preserve” the country’s 2008 Constitution, according to state media.

The wording has now been changed to “respect and obey”, it said — a small alteration but one that would allow the NLD to criticise and suggest changes to the Constitution.

Myanmar expert Aung Naing Oo of the Vahu Development Institute, a Thai-based think-tank, said the NLD’s return to the political process would offer the country “a better relationship with the international community”.

“It is really, really important for Burma. It will be seen as a normal country for the first time in 23 to 24 years,” he told AFP, using Myanmar’s former name.

Suu Kyi, who was feted by thousands of supporters in August on her first political trip outside Yangon since she was freed, is expected to hold a press conference on Monday to mark the first anniversary of her release. — AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Why the Gambia’s plea for the Rohingya matters for international justice

In early December, the International Court of Justice heard arguments filed by the Gambia against Myanmar for violations of the Genocide Convention. This included...

Aung San Suu Kyi at the ICJ: when the personal is political

Myanmar’s leader personally faces allegations while avoiding the task of changing the country’s trajectory

#FeesMustFall activist elated after his house arrest conditions have been relaxed

Bonginkosi Khanyile says not having police coming to his house everyday is a step forward for him gaining his freedom

Freed Myanmar journos a symbol of Suu Kyi’s tarnished image

Suu Kyi was once the darling of the foreign media, but her silence over the persecuted Rohingya minority has drawn widespread condemnation

Top Myanmar court rejects appeal of Reuters journalists

Reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been behind bars since their arrest in December 2017 under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act

‘They got careers, I got a record’

#FeesMustFall sought free education for all, but it cost one of its champions his liberty

Subscribers only

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

Finance probe into the Ingonyama Trust Board goes ahead

The threat of legal action from ITB chairperson Jerome Ngwenya fails to halt forensic audit ordered by the land reform minister

Ailing Far East Rand hospital purchases ‘vanity’ furniture

Dr Zacharia Mathaba, who purchased the furniture, is a suspected overtime fraudster and was appointed as Gauteng hospital chief executive despite facing serious disciplinary charges

Eusebius McKaiser: Reject the dichotomy of political horrors

Senekal shows us that we must make a stand against the loud voice of the populist EFF and racist rightwingers

Seals abort pups in mass die-off

There are a number of factors — a pollutant, virus or bacteria or malnutrition — may have caused the 12 000 deaths on Namibia’s coast

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday