Myanmar's Suu Kyi Says Election Shaping Up as Less Than Fair

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi addresses journalists during a press conference at her compound on Nov. 5.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi addresses journalists during a press conference at her compound on Nov. 5.

Photographer: Philip Heijmans/Bloomberg
  • Suu Kyi says she would be 'above president' should party win
  • Opposition leader warns against exaggerating Rohingya plight

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said she is very concerned by the election commission’s attitude towards next week’s vote, warning the poll is already shaping up to be less than free and fair.

"We have been very concerned by the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the UEC to hold free and fair elections," Suu Kyi said Thursday at a news conference in Yangon. "We have repeatedly made complaints about the way in which some parties and individuals have been breaking the rules and regulations laid down by the election commission, but very little action has been taken."

She pointed to what she called irregularities with some advance voting ahead of the Nov. 8 poll, and noted that her National League for Democracy party will consider contesting the results if they deem them fraudulent.

Sui Kyi’s personal popularity may help her party take power in what is seen as the country’s most open election since the military began restoring democracy five years ago in an effort to lift economic sanctions and entice investment. Even if her party wins a majority in the legislature it won’t be enough to propel Suu Kyi, 70, to power as the she is barred from the presidency because her children hold foreign passports.

‘Above the President’

Suu Kyi has repeatedly said she won’t let that rule stop her from leading the government should her party win.

"If the NLD wins the election and is able to form a government, I would lead
it," she said Thursday at the news conference held at her house, where she spent 15 years under house arrest under the former junta. "I will be above the president,” she said. "The constitution says nothing about someone being above the president."

Such a stance risks antagonizing the military, which refused to recognize the results of the NLD’s landslide victory in a 1990 election. The NLD boycotted the next vote, which didn’t come until 2010, amid allegations of vote-rigging. That allowed the army to keep control through its political arm, the Union Solidarity and Development Party led by President Thein Sein.

Some of the luster has come off Suu Kyi as she has made the transition from democracy icon to full-time politician. Some former party members have criticized her as autocratic and accused her of jeopardizing the democratic transition by showing hostility toward the military. Abroad she has been criticized for not being vocal enough about the treatment of Rohingya, a Muslim minority group not recognized as citizens of the country.

On Thursday, she played down concerns that the treatment of Rohingya could amount to genocide, as several rights groups have warned.

"I think it is very important that we should not exaggerate the problems in this country," she said. "I would promise everybody who is living in this country proper protection in accordance with the law and in accordance to the laws of human rights."

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