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Suu Kyi confirms run for Parliament

January 10, 2012

YANGON: Aung San Suu Kyi has confirmed she will run for a seat in parliament, her party says, a move that will infuse April by-elections with legitimacy, star power and historic significance.

Suu Kyi said last year she would run for parliament but had appeared to backtrack since then. A victory would give the Nobel Peace Prize winner and longtime political prisoner a voice in parliament for the first time in her decades-long role as the country’s opposition leader.

She was under house arrest during November 2010 elections, which were boycotted by her National League for Democracy Party in part because she was barred from participating.

The elections, Myanmar’s first in 20 years, replaced a ruling military junta with a government that remains strongly linked to the military but has taken steps toward easing decades of repression.

Suu Kyi’s decision to personally contest the April polls is the latest vote of confidence for government reforms that include the legalisation of labour unions, increasing press freedom and opening a dialogue with Suu Kyi herself.

Party spokesman Nyan Win said today that Suu Kyi announced during a party meeting the previous day that she would seek a parliamentary seat in the  suburb of Kawhmu.

As recently as last week, Suu Kyi declined to confirm whether she would personally contest a seat, telling The Associated Press in an interview that her decision would be announced later this month.

She also expressed cautious optimism about the government’s reforms.

“I think there are obstacles and there are some dangers that we have to look out for,”  Suu Kyi said. “I am concerned about how much support there is in the military for changes.”

Even ifSuu Kyi’s party wins all 48 seats to be contested on April 1, it will have minimal power. Most of the seats were vacated by MPs who became cabinet ministers after the first parliamentary session last January.

The military is guaranteed 110 seats in the 440-seat lower house and 56 seats in the 224-seat upper house, and the main pro-military party holds 80 per cent of the remaining 498 elected seats.

Suu Kyi’s party won a sweeping victory in the 1990 general election but the junta refused to honour the results. The military regime kept  Suu Kyi under house arrest on-and-off for 15 years, hoping to snuff out her popularity.

Despite never having held elected office, she became Myanmar’s most recognisable face and an icon for the country’s pro-democracy movement.

-Agencies


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