RANGOON — The parliamentary committee guiding Burma’s constitutional amendment process has voted not to endorse changes to a controversial article that bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency, a committee member says.
The Constitutional Amendment Implementation Committee voted overwhelmingly to recommend retaining Article 59(F), the committee member from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.
In a committee meeting on June 6, “only five members voted to amend it,” the USDP lawmaker said, adding that committee members from the military and the USDP persuaded others to reject any changes. “Since the majority of members voted not to amend it, the amendment of that article will not happen in this Parliament.”
Of the 31-member committee, seven members are unelected military representatives, while 14 represent the USDP. Only two members are from Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, while eight represent other political parties.
The committee will submit its final recommendations to the Union Parliament, where votes will be cast on the proposed constitutional changes.
A controversial article
Article 59 (F) is one of the more controversial articles of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution. It states that the president may not be married to or have children who are foreign nationals. Suu Kyi’s sons from her marriage to the late academic Michael Aris are British.
In her push to change this article, the NLD chairwoman has received support not only from the public, but also from one of the most powerful people in Parliament, Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann, who leads the USDP and has himself expressed ambitions to become president.
“To have a free and fair election in 2015, I have to say we should amend Section 59F of the Constitution,” he told The Irrawaddy at a press conference in Naypyidaw last year.
The USDP’s central committee in December proposed an amendment that would make Suu Kyi eligible for the presidency if her sons adopted Burmese citizenship. Her sons have indicated they are not willing to give up British citizenship, and Suu Kyi has not pressed them to do so.
In addition to Article 59(F), Suu Kyi has focused increasingly in recent months on amending Article 436, which effectively gives the military a veto over amendments.
A member of the Constitutional Amendment Implementation Committee told The Irrawaddy last month that the committee had agreed to recommend amendments to this Article 436.