Showing the distance Myanmar has travelled towards democracy since the days of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest was the frank declaration last week, by her, at the World Economic Forum, for the first time, of her intention to run for the president. With the general elections due in this country in 2015, the National League for Democracy party, led by Suu Kyi, is widely expected to win them if they are free and fair. Yet, a major hurdle to her presidential ambitions is the current constitution, which blocks anyone whose spouses or children are overseas citizens from leading the country. With Suu Kyi’s two sons being British, the clause is widely believed to be targeted at the Nobel laureate, though she hopes to overcome it through an amendment, for which she needs the military’s cooperation, which holds a quarter of the seats in Parliament. This may well happen, for recent times have seen a surprising amount of cooperation between the transforming quasi-civilian regime and Suu Kyi even as the former has not hesitated to bring about top-down pro-democracy changes. The regime, aware of the Myanmar’s economic backwardness and of the failure of military crony capitalism, and fearful of unrest, wants national reconciliation. President Thein Sein, a former general, who has enthusiastically embraced reforms, enjoys a relationship of personal trust and pragmatic understanding with Suu Kyi, who also has a powerful bargaining position because of her say in the lifting of sanctions imposed on Myanmar.
With Suu Kyi’s party planning to unveil its proposal to revise the constitution soon, she has pressed for constitutional reforms to ensure a free and independent government, greater press freedom, improved human rights protection and greater inclusiveness in the ongoing reforms. Suu Kyi has, however, suggested that she would not like to president in a situation of the absence of rule of law, implying that while she has been conciliatory to the government, it is unlikely that she has changed her ultimate objective of political reform to achieve democratisation and respect for human rights. The 2015 general election could well be a watershed event in Myanmar and may lead the NLD to a landslide victory. India must fully support the blossoming of democracy in this country, which is its only future.