Myanmar takes first step to clear way for Suu Kyi

Myanmar takes first step to clear way for Suu Kyi
Political prisoners Yan Naing Tun (centre, foreground) and Aung Min Naing (background) talking to the media after their release from Insein prison on Tuesday. The government said it would free all remaining political prisoners.

Myanmar's military-backed ruling party has formally proposed amending a clause in the Constitution that now bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from being president of the country.

Separately, the government announced it was fulfilling a pledge of President Thein Sein to release all remaining political prisoners.

The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), at the end of a three-day central committee meeting on Monday, adopted a resolution proposing 94 amendments or annulments to the Constitution. These include amending the contentious 59(f) clause that bars anyone from being president if they or anyone in their family has foreign citizenship.

Doing so would clear the way to the presidency for Ms Suu Kyi if her party wins the 2015 General Election, a likely outcome given her personal charisma and political pedigree as daughter of independence hero Aung San.

Ms Suu Kyi was married to a British citizen and their two sons are British citizens, disqualifying her for the presidency under 59(f).

The amendment process has to go through a committee which has received proposals from other political parties and civil society groups as well. Coupled with debates in Parliament, the process will take months. So the amendment of 59(f) is not a certainty.

But that the proposal has come from the military-backed USDP is very significant, analysts said. The clause was seen to have been put into the Constitution by the army - which drew it up and rammed it through a referendum in 2008 - specifically to shut Ms Suu Kyi out of the presidency.

But Ms Suu Kyi has been mending fences with the army and is known to have engineered a tacit alliance with the powerful Speaker of the House Thura Shwe Mann - who is also chair of the USDP.

Mr Shwe Mann is a former top general - but he is also a contender for the presidency in 2015. Analysts say he and Ms Suu Kyi both need each other, so they have to find an accommodation.

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