Suu Kyi party to decide 'soon' on contesting Myanmar polls

YANGON - Aung San Suu Kyi Saturday said her opposition party would shortly decide whether to contest crucial elections in Myanmar later this year as it battles to change the constitution barring her from the presidency.

Speaking to senior National League for Democracy (NLD) members at the start of their annual two-day conference in Yangon, Suu Kyi injected some fresh doubt over whether her party would compete in its first national vote in a quarter of a century.

The polls, slated for October or November, are seen as a vital test of democratic reforms in Myanmar after decades of junta rule, and if free and fair, the NLD is expected to make sweeping gains.

But under the current charter Suu Kyi is barred from the top job under a constitutional provision excluding those with a foreign spouse or children from the presidency -- her two sons are British.

"Soon the National League for Democracy will decide whether we will run for election or not," she told dozens of senior party members gathered for the meeting in downtown Yangon. "After we decide, we will choose representatives."

The Nobel laureate has previously declined to rule out a boycott of the polls as her party struggles to amend the junta-era charter.

Its campaign has been focused on changing a constitutional clause that hands a crucial say over changes to the charter to the military, which is guaranteed a quarter of parliamentary seats.

But military members have vociferously opposed any reduction to their voting privileges.

Myanmar began emerging from military rule in 2011 following an election marred by widespread accusations of cheating and the absence of the NLD.

The once pariah nation was widely praised for then launching a spread of economic and political reforms with most international sanctions against it dropped.

But in recent months rights groups and Suu Kyi have warned that the country's transition towards democracy has stalled.

The NLD last competed in general elections in 1990, when it won by a landslide but was never allowed to take power.

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