NLD party debates whether to register for polls and open path for pro-democracy leader to return to political arena.
Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to give a speech on Monday to mark a year since she was freed from home arrest [AFP]
Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is likely to contest a by-election in the coming months, a spokesman for her party has said, following a change to party-registration laws.
The National League for Democracy (NLD), delisted last year for boycotting a rare election, will begin debating on Saturday whether to re-register as a political party, paving the way for Suu Kyi to return to the political arena.
“The NLD is likely to register and also Daw Suu is likely to participate at the coming by-election,” Nyan Win, a party spokesman, told the AFP news agency.
“Daw” is a term of respect in Myanmar.
It is not yet clear when a by-election will be held, but there are more than 40 seats available in parliament’s two chambers.
The NLD won a 1990 election but was never allowed to take office, and it withdrew from last year’s vote largely because of rules that would have forced it to expel imprisoned members. Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest at the time.
Suu Kyi was released a few days after last November’s poll, which was widely condemned by the West and marred by claims of cheating.
Even so, the new army-backed government has surprised critics with a series of reformist moves.
These include a recent amendment to a law on political parties, endorsed by Thein Sein, Myanmar’s president, which removed the condition that all parties must agree to “preserve” the country’s 2008 constitution, according to state media.
A decision to re-register the NLD is widely expected after 100 senior party members gathered in Yangon on Friday to discuss the move.
Nyan Win did not comment on which constituency Aung San Suu Kyi would stand in, or what kind of position she expected, but party sources said she would contest in a Yangon township.
While Myanmar is now ruled by a nominally civilian government, its ranks are filled with former generals.
Aung San Suu Kyi has strongly criticised the constitution, part of what the government called its “road map to democracy”. She is expected to hold a press conference on Monday to mark the first anniversary of her release.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said on Friday that Myanmar is making real progress towards reforms but much more needs to be done, including the release of political prisoners.
A recent visit by senior US diplomats found “real changes taking place on the ground”, Clinton said on the sidelines of an annual Pacific Rim summit.
“It appears there are real changes taking place on the ground and we support these early efforts at reform,” she said. “We want to see the people of Burma able to participate fully in the political life of their own country.”
Clinton said the US would continue to call for release of all political prisoners, an end to conflict in minority areas and greater transparency regarding Myanmar’s relations with North Korea.
At stake are political and economic sanctions the US and other Western countries imposed against the generals who had ruled Myanmar until handing over power to the current elected military-backed government in March this year.