[While campaigning before elections in November, she pledged to be “above” the president if her party, the National League for Democracy, was victorious. It swept the elections and now controls both houses of Parliament with large majorities.]
By Wai Moe and Richard C. Paddock
YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar’s democracy leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, foiled by military leaders in her bid to become president, would become “state counselor” under a measure approved on Tuesday by Parliament’s lower house. The newly created role could give her authority exceeding the president’s.
Military members of Parliament denounced the measure as an unconstitutional power grab, stood up in the chamber in protest and boycotted the vote.
The measure, approved last week by Parliament’s upper house, will now go to President Htin Kyaw for his signature. The president is a close ally of Ms.Aung San Suu Kyi whom she chose for the job.
While campaigning before elections in November, she pledged to be “above” the president if her party, the National League for Democracy, was victorious. It swept the elections and now controls both houses of Parliament with large majorities.
The military-drafted Constitution bars Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate, from becoming president because her children are British citizens.
The position of state counselor would allow her to coordinate the activities of Parliament and the executive branch. She also holds the positions of minister of the president’s office and foreign minister.
Last week, she took on two more ministerial positions — education and energy — but she gave up those posts this week.
The combination of jobs means that she will oversee the president’s office, determine foreign policy and coordinate decision-making between the executive branch and parliamentary leaders. It is unclear what responsibilities that will leave for the president.
U Yan Myo Thein, a political commentator in
Yangon, the country’s major city, said that it was
not surprising Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party and the military would clash but
that he had not expected a dispute so soon. He said it could jeopardize
relations between the military and civilian leaders in the coming years.
But U Tun Tun Hein, a National League for Democracy parliamentary leader and chairman of the lower house’s bill drafting committee, played down the disagreement.
“I don’t see the discussion and debate from the bill as a problem between the N.L.D. and the military,” he said. “It is the beginning of democracy in practice. There will be agreement and disagreement.”
U Kyaw Win, a
Yangon writer, said that he was disappointed by the
dispute and that he feared it could slow progress in reducing the military’s
role in politics.
“How could we hold dialogue with the military with this tension?” he asked. “Politicians should maneuver strategically in dealing with the military, since we can’t send them back to the barracks overnight.”
The military, known as the Tatmadaw, ruled the country for more than half a century, and only in the last few years has it allowed democracy to emerge.
The military dictatorship kept Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for 15 years and ensured that she could not serve as president by including the constitutional prohibition effectively disqualifying her.
The Constitution gives the military a quarter of the seats in Parliament and assigns it the role of protecting the Constitution.
Col. Aung Thiha, one of the military members of the lower house, objected to the bill giving Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi new authority, in part because it identified her by name.
“The bill goes against separation of powers and violates the Constitution,” he said. “Although this is a multiparty system, the bill is about a party leader. If our Tatmadaw’s voices are not considered and accepted, we won’t join in voting on the bill.”
The former president, U Thein Sein, who stepped down last week after paving the way for the historic change in power, shaved his head, put on a robe and became a monk on Monday for five days, according to the Ministry of Information. It is common in
for Buddhists to enter a monastery for short
Wai Moe reported from
and Richard C. Paddock from Bangkok.