Suu Kyi discusses transfer of power with Myanmar’s outgoing president

By , on December 2, 2015


Myanmar's newly elected president Aung Suu Kyi (Internet photo)
Myanmar’s newly elected president Aung Suu Kyi (Internet photo)

NAYPYITAW, MYANMAR – Nearly a month after her party’s resounding election win, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi held closed-door talks with Myanmar’s outgoing president Wednesday to discuss what both said they hope will be a smooth transition of power.

Because it took so long for the two to meet, there were some concerns the still powerful military would not easily accept the results.

Suu Kyi met later Wednesday with Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the military commander-in-chief.

The Southeast Asian nation started moving from a half-century of dictatorship toward democracy in 2011, when military rulers inexplicably agreed to hand over power to a nominally civilian government headed by President Thein Sein, a general turned reformist.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy easily won the Nov. 8 elections, securing enough seats in both the lower and upper houses of Parliament to form a government. A clause in the 2008 military-directed constitution bars her from the presidency, but she has vowed to rule by proxy.

Presidential spokesman Ye Htut said the meeting at Thein Sein’s residence in the sprawling capital, Naypyitaw, lasted about 45 minutes.

“The main point was to talk about a smooth transition and transfer of power to the newly elected government and to discuss mutual co-operation in the future,” he said.

Another goal, he said, was to “ease people’s concerns.”

Despite the NLD’s landslide victory, most analysts agree it will be almost impossible for it to govern without the support of the military establishment. By law, the military still controls a quarter of the seats in Parliament, giving it veto power over all constitutional amendments. It also has a grip on all key security portfolios.

Ye Htut told reporters the meeting between Suu Kyi and Thein Sein was amicable.

The president congratulated “The Lady,” as she is popularly known, for leading her party to victory. And Suu Kyi said she was thankful that the elections were free and fair as promised.

The transfer of power should take place in February after the new Parliament meets and votes on a new president, along with two vice-presidents.

The NLD will face a variety of challenges, not least of which is the huge tide of pent-up expectations evidenced by the vote. Its lack of experience in public administration is another big question.

The victory is a sweet second chance for the party, which also won a landslide victory in the first election it contested, in 1990, only to see the results annulled by the military and many of its leading members harassed and jailed.

Suu Kyi was put under house arrest prior to the 1990 election and spent 15 of the next 22 years mostly confined to her lakeside villa in Yangon. She was under house arrest when she won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.