Myanmar parliament votes to keep military veto over charter changes

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YANGON. KAZINFORM - Myanmar's parliament on Thursday voted to retain the military's veto power over any constitutional amendments, dealing a blow to the opposition National League for Democracy's hopes of having its leader Aung San Suu Kyi run for the presidency.

The amendment bill, which was drawn up and submitted by the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party led by figures affiliated with the former junta, was rejected by unelected military representatives who hold a quarter of seats in the Union Parliament. Suu Kyi called the result "not surprising" but said she does not view the voting as a setback and instead she feels "satisfied" for being able to have the opportunity to firmly express the policies and positions of her party. "I do not take it as a lost because, winning or losing all depends on whom the people perceive is doing the right thing," she said, adding her supporters should not despair over the result. Suu Kyi said she will from now on focus mainly on working towards the general election to be held later this year. "Just make sure that you all vote for us and make the NLD win, and we will definitely form the next government," Suu Kyi added. The charter, adopted in 2008 while the country was still under direct military rule, allocates 25 percent of seats in parliament to the military and empowers its representatives to veto any proposed amendments by requiring a support threshold of more than 75 percent. The bill had called for amending the charter amendment procedures to reduce the required support threshold to 70 percent of all parliamentarians, elected or not, while Suu Kyi's party had sought to further reduce it to 65 percent of all elected parliamentarians or 50 percent of all parliamentarians including unelected ones. During the debate in the bill, the military representatives argued that the military's involvement in the initial stages of the country's transition to democracy, while temporary, is necessary to ensure a smooth and successful transition. Regarding Suu Kyi's eligibility to run for the presidency, the charter currently bars any citizen whose spouse, children or spouses of children are foreign nationals from becoming a candidate, effectively disqualifying her as her late husband was British and her two sons are both British nationals. The bill voted on Thursday had proposed only minor changes to that article by lifting the disqualification of citizens with children whose spouses are foreign nationals. Lawmakers from Suu Kyi's party want the article barring her candidacy to be totally scrapped, saying its original intention was to exclude her. Source: Kyodo

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