February 29, 2016 / 11:25 AM / a year ago

Myanmar parliament to change presidential elections date: document

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Myanmar's National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi leaves after she attended as an observer for opening of the new upper house of parliament in Naypyitaw February 3, 2016.Soe Zeya Tun

NAYPYITAW (Reuters) - Myanmar's democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi is likely to speed up elections of the country's president, in a last-minute change following weeks of talks with the military that has stood by the constitution that bars her from assuming the highest office.

Myanmar's parliament dominated by the National League for Democracy (NLD), which swept historic elections in November, will change the date of presidential elections, previously set for March 17, according to the agenda for Tuesday's parliamentary session.

NLD members and analysts say the party was likely to speed up the vote to end weeks of bickering between the army and the NLD over whether junta-drafted constitution, which bars Suu Kyi from becoming president, should be amended.

The original date, set only two weeks before the term of the new government was set to start on April 1, gave Suu Kyi plenty of time to negotiate the terms of the transition. But in the face of the unrelenting military, Suu Kyi decided to speed up the vote to gain time to prepare for government, analysts say.

"It's become clear that amendment of article 59 (f) (barring Suu Kyi from becoming president) is impossible. So they want the presidential nomination to happen earlier so that they can take more time in handling cabinet formation," said political analyst Yan Myo Thein.

The NLD swept the historic Nov. 8 election, securing some 80 percent of elected seats in parliament, or enough to push through its president. Suu Kyi is barred from the presidency because she has foreign children.

Another factor that may have forced the NLD's surprise change of tactics was lack of cooperation from the outgoing administration of President Thein Sein.

Last week, the NLD criticized the military and the army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) over a controversial copper mine project run as a joint venture between a Chinese weapons manufacturer and the Myanmar military. It also zeroed in on other lucrative public works projects awarded by the outgoing government at the last minute.

In a rare show of outrage, the military MPs stood up, while one of the members of the army caucus rejected the NLD's allegations in parliament.

"Present government is responsible only to the previous parliament that formed it," said Thein Sein's spokesman, Ye Htut, backing ministers who refused to come to parliament to face questioning by the NLD.

The rare heated debate showed the challenges facing Suu Kyi as she tries to overcome years of corrosive distrust between the junta that had ruled the country for nearly half a century and pro-democracy activists.

Now both sides are forced to share power. The military controls a large chunk of the country's administration through three security ministries, has guaranteed a quarter of the seats in the parliament and a constitutional veto.

Additional reporting by Aung Hla Tun in Yangon; Editing by Antoni Slodkowski and Nick Macfie

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