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NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – Aung San Suu Kyi tried Wednesday, February 3, to calm nerves over Myanmar’s tense political transition, with her choice of proxy presidential candidate shrouded in mystery days after her party took up its parliamentary majority.
Suu Kyi and hundreds of fellow lawmakers from her National League for Democracy (NLD) strode into the legislature on Monday with a huge mandate from November elections, carrying the hopes of a nation desperate to rebound after decades under the military yoke.
But the democracy champion, who is herself barred from the presidency under a constitution scripted by the former junta, said it was “not yet time to form a government.”
She was speaking at her first press conference since the new parliament.
“Don’t be anxious. You will know when the time comes,” Suu Kyi told reporters, adding that the party must “think carefully” about its choice of a candidate and suggesting the decision would not come until next month.
The NLD’s massive majority – with almost 80% of parliament’s seats – gives it a clear run at the presidential selection.
Suu Kyi, the centerpiece of Myanmar’s long democracy struggle, is excluded from the presidency by a charter clause that bars anyone with close relatives who are foreign.
She has sought to sidestep that problem by vowing to rule “above” a proxy leader.
But the secrecy surrounding a potential candidate has sent ripples of disquiet through the nation.
There are few obvious choices since the pro-democracy movement has been dominated by Suu Kyi’s charismatic leadership since the 1980s.
The NLD also faces a still-powerful military, which under the constitution is granted 25% of parliamentary seats – giving it an effective veto on charter change.
The army has so far resisted any move to amend the clause that blocks Suu Kyi, and a commentary in the state military newspaper on Monday restated this stance.
Elected members of both houses of parliament and the military will nominate three candidates to replace outgoing President Thein Sein, who retains his post until the end of March.
The new president will then be chosen by a vote of the combined houses.
Suu Kyi said she was “really satisfied” with the parliamentary process so far, particularly the selection of several ethnic minority representatives for the roles of parliament speakers and their deputies, which she said was intended to promote “national reconciliation”.
She also chided reporters over their over-eager approach to news collection in recent months, following chaotic scenes during the election and huge media scrums in parliament this week.
“People should be able to move around freely,” she said, but pledged to work for greater transparency in a party that decreed recently that she alone could act as a spokesperson.
The next government faces a daunting rebuilding task in one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries, where civil wars continue to rage in ethnic borderlands and public services bear the scars of junta neglect. – Hla-Hla Htay, AFP/Rappler.com