Military rulers would do absurd things in order to hold on to power. Myanmar’s generals may have doubled up as parliamentarians, but they want it to be their very own parliament. Everything they do or refuse to do seems to be geared towards just one aim — how to keep Aung San Suu Kyi away from power. So a parliamentary committee recently voted against a proposal to change a constitutional clause that bars anyone whose spouse or children are foreigners from becoming Myanmar’s president or vice-president. In 2008, the generals gave themselves a fraudulent constitution following a farcical referendum. It was a brazen ploy to perpetuate the army’s control over the government. The constitution makes it mandatory to have 25 per cent of the parliamentary seats reserved for the army, which is also given the power to veto any amendment to the constitution. The vote against changing the clause about the choice of the country’s president was aimed solely at stopping Ms Suu Kyi from being elected to the post. Her late husband was British and her two sons happen to be British citizens. But the generals are simply using the past in her personal life to try and stall her future in Myanmar’s public life. Clearly, the generals are worried about her party, the National League for Democracy, sweeping next year’s parliamentary polls. The constitution leaves it to the parliament to elect the president.
By barring Ms Suu Kyi from the presidency, the generals may have unwittingly opened up a stronger case against themselves. They have exposed yet again the fraud that they had perpetrated on the country in the name of writing a constitution and restoring democracy in Myanmar. A truly democratic regime, whenever the country can have it, has to reject this constitution completely. A comprehensive victory for the NLD in next year’s polls could be the first step towards that. Ms Suu Kyi’s own response to the vote on the controversial clause has been characteristic of her political style. She has ignored the generals’ ploy and reaffirmed her faith in the people. She wants parliament to have the power to amend any part of the constitution by virtue of a majority. Ultimately, it is not so much an issue involving a particular leader as about the democratic credentials of both the constitution and the parliament. The generals must be completely deluded if they think they can keep Ms Suu Kyi down for ever.