Analysis: Myanmar's military moves amid Suu Kyi no-show

Wed Apr 25, 2012 4:12am EDT
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By Andrew R.C. Marshall

(Reuters) - A political stalemate preventing the long-awaited parliamentary debut of Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi coincides with an apparent attempt by the powerful military to bolster its influence in the legislature.

Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) colleagues swept 43 of 45 seats contested in April 1 by-elections but now she and other NLD MPs elect are refusing to swear a parliamentary oath to "safeguard" a 2008 constitution, which they say is undemocratic.

They want the word in the oath changed to "respect."

The stalemate has unsettled party faithful who are eager for the NLD to help tackle their country's myriad problems, while perplexing analysts who say the NLD's gambit risks being seen as pedantic, ill-timed, and needlessly confrontational.

"It's a very high-risk strategy for political gains that are not quite clear," says Richard Horsey, a former United Nations official in Myanmar. "It's wasting precious time that could be spent on actual policymaking."

The NLD is holding its ground in the evident hope that a deal can be brokered with the help of reformist President Thein Sein and the speakers of the upper and lower houses.

"Different views are the essence of democracy," says Myat Nyana Soe, a member of parliament who recently switched parties to join the NLD. "We hope the majority will respect the view of the minority."

The NLD's no-show coincides with an effort by the military to strengthen its position in parliament, where its officers are guaranteed a quarter of seats under the constitution.   Continued...

Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi smiles at her supporters as she leaves a monastery after attending a religious ceremony at Yangon April 24, 2012. REUTERS/Minzayar