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Once lauded, now criticized, Aung San Suu Kyi to run in Myanmar election

Myanmar Leader Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi leaves after a meeting at her National League for Democracy party headquarters in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on Tuesday.
(Aung Shine Oo / Associated Press)

Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, will be a candidate in this November’s general election, a spokesman for her National League for Democracy party said Tuesday.

NLD spokesman Zaw Myint Maung announced after a meeting of the party’s Central Executive Committee that Suu Kyi and President Win Myint would run in the Nov. 8 polls. Suu Kyi — a Nobel Peace Prize winner who has since come under harsh international criticism over the flight of minority Muslims from her country — is expected to provide more details of her plans Thursday.

Suu Kyi was barred from becoming Myanmar’s president by a clause in the constitution that was enacted under a previous military government. The post of state counselor was created by her party as a workaround, giving her executive powers. She also holds the position of foreign minister.

Suu Kyi led her party to a landslide victory in the last general election in 2015. The victory ended more than five decades of military rule and was the culmination of more than 25 years of nonviolent democracy activism by Suu Kyi that won her the Nobel Peace Prize.

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However, her failure while in power to end or even recognize military abuses of the Muslim Rohingya minority in the western state of Rakhine drew condemnation from many of her former admirers worldwide. An estimated 740,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh, and the World Court in the Netherlands has accepted a case of genocide filed against Myanmar.

Prejudice against the Rohingya is pervasive in Myanmar, and Suu Kyi remains by far the country’s most popular politician.

The continuing influence of the military under the constitution has limited her government’s ability to enact major reforms. The constitution gives the armed forces one-quarter of the seats in the lower and upper houses of the national parliament, enabling them to veto any changes to the charter.

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The state Union Election Commission at the beginning of this month announced the Nov. 8 date for national, regional and state elections.

Tactical alliances that Suu Kyi’s party forged for the 2015 election are unlikely to hold for this year’s polls.

The failure of her government to come up with a workable plan to give ethnic minority groups the autonomy they have long sought has estranged them politically, and they seem likely to seek to boost their own parties rather than ally with Suu Kyi’s.

The election commission announced that more than 37 million people are eligible to vote. A total of 1,171 seats are at stake at the national, state and regional levels.


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