Roundup: Aung San Suu Kyi seduces Australia with presidential ambitions

Roundup: Aung San Suu Kyi seduces Australia with presidential ambitions

by Christian Edwards

SYDNEY, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- On a whirlwind PR tour of Australia, Myanmar's "iconic" leader Aung San Suu Kyi this week, has for the first time, signaled her desire for foreign - in this case Australian - support for her presidential run, most likely in 2015.

During an address at the think-tank Lowy Institute in Sydney, Suu Kyi sought to rally an audience of leading intellectuals and officials around the notion of a Suu Kyi presidency in 2015.

However, a leading analyst here suggests that Suu Kyi will need more than a community of western powers to coalesce around her reform and democracy platform.

Whether Aung San Suu Kyi might ascend to the presidency when Thein Sein's five-year term expires in 2015 has no simple answer but foreign support will mean little, according to Andrew Selth, a research fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute, if Suu Kyi ignores the legislative challenges that pose the greatest threat to the opposition leader's objectives.

"She is sometimes reluctant to say so, but it is clear that Aung San Suu Kyi wants to become president of Burma." Selth said.

"Her own ambition and profound sense of destiny aside, she will turn 70 in 2015 and, if she misses her chance, there may not be another. Several legal and procedural steps would need to be taken before she can bid for the top job, but the key factor will be the attitude of the armed forces (Tatmadaw)."

A clause in Burma's 2008 constitution disqualifies Suu Kyi from becoming president, but the Oxford graduate was clear in Sydney that she remained confident of overcoming any constitutional obstacles barring her way to office in 2015.

"Ordinary Australians, as many as possible, should be aware of the be able to support us and also as a democracy you should also make sure your government is aware of the issue and prepared to support us," she told the Lowy Institute.

Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy(NLD), is on her first official visit to Australia, making every stop a winner on her mission to see the NLD assume power in 2015.

She was awarded two honorary degrees from the University of Sydney and UTS, notably describing it as a sign that Australia stands with her.

Along with the addressing the rule of law and ethnic conflict, Suu Kyi said amending the constitution - ideally to allow her run at office in two years - was a landmark goal in ensuring Myanmar evolves into a genuinely democratic nation.

A deft hand at understanding an audience, Suu Kyi told a packed house of supporters at the University of Technology in Sydney (UTS) , that the awards indicated the Australian people's support for her ambitions.

"The honorary degrees which were presented to me earlier, these were not just honorary degrees," She said.

"These were signs that the world was with us, that we had not been forgotten in our struggle and for this I would like to thank all of you all of you in Australia and all over the world."

Earlier on Tuesday Suu Kyi met with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Canberra.

Abbott was quick to hail the 68-year-old as an "icon of democracy", allowing Suu Kyi this response which was quickly picked up by local and international media.

"I always object to the word icon, because it's very static, it stands there, sits there, hangs on the wall, and I happen to work very, very hard."

At an address at the Sydney Opera House, the diminutive daughter of a former Burmese president said she disregarded being called a saint even more than an icon.

"Let me assure you I am no saint of any kind; this I find very troubling, because politicians are politicians, but I do believe there is such a thing as an honest politician and I aspire to that, " she said to broad approval from an audience that clearly disagreed with her on both fronts.

Suu Kyi has been at pains to express her confidence that the changes to the constitution could be implemented before the national presidential elections in 2015.

The military (Tatmadaw) has effectively loosened its hold on Myanmar politics, but clearly remains the key power political institution in the country.

As it stands, the constitution guarantees it a leading role in Burma's national affairs, something Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing reaffirmed at the annual Armed Forces Day parade in March this year.

Should the military leadership and its supporters in government and parliament oppose Aung San Suu Kyi's elevation, then it is difficult, despite her global campaigning - to see her elected as president.

Selth added that of most importance is that the 2008 constitution would have to be amended.

"Other parts of the charter are relevant, but the main obstacle to an Aung San Suu Kyi presidency is clause 59(f)."

"Under this provision, the president cannot have any children who are the citizens of a foreign country, nor can their children' s spouses be foreigners. Aung San Suu Kyi's two sons are British subjects and both are married to non-Burmese citizens. Until this clause is amended, she cannot become president - as was doubtless its intention," he said.

Suu Kyi is aware of the constitutional barriers and took to them in another Sydney speech.

"The provision for amendments to the constitution is, I'm told, about the most rigid to be found anywhere in the world. In order to make any major amendment more than 75 percent of the members of the legislature must vote for it. That's just the first step," she added.

The military must support any amendment of any consequent for an amendment to go through and all the military members of Myanmar 's parliament are appointed by the Commander in Chief.

"So the Commander in Chief at any time can decide who represents the military in the legislature. That means in effect that the Commander in Chief decides whether or not the constitution can be amended," she said.

But the activist opposition leader has made it clear throughout her visit that those challenges will be met directly in the next 12 months.

Suu Kyi is set to visit Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne from Nov. 27 to Dec. 2.