01/02/2014, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Myanmar ready for constitutional amendment to open presidency to Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar's president is in favour of changes to the country's fundamental law, enacted in 2008 under the military regime. He calls for amendments that would allow the opposition leader to be elected as head of state. He warns though about political deadlock if demands "are larger than what the current political system can accommodate."

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Myanmar President Thein Sein lent his support to reform of the country's junta-era constitution, indicating he would back changes that would allow opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to be elected president in 2015.

For Thein Sein, a former general and prime minister under military rule who won international praise for dramatic reforms since he became president in 2011, a lively debate about revising the charter showed increasing "political maturity."

In its current form, the constitution reserves a quarter of the seats in parliament to unelected military personnel. Changes would require a two-thirds majority.

"I believe that a healthy constitution must be amended from time to time to address the national, economic, and social needs of our society," the president said.

"I would not want restrictions being imposed on the right of any citizen to become the leader of the country," Thein Sein said with regards to provisions that currently exclude anyone whose spouse or children are overseas citizens from becoming president - a clause widely believed to be targeted at Aung San Suu Kyi whose two sons are British.

After decades of military dictatorship, the country held the first partially free elections in 2011, followed by by-elections in 2012 that allowed the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) - who spent 15 of the previous 22 years under house arrest by order of the junta - to be elected to parliament.

In 2015, Myanmar will hold new parliamentary elections. The new parliament will then elected the president.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner said she wanted to run for the highest office in the country. However, a constitutional amendment would be necessary for this to happen.

Imposed by the military in 2008 after a sham vote held during the Cyclone Nargis emergency, the current constitution prevents the NLD leader from being elected to the presidency.

In his address to the nation, Thein Sein said he had "tried to promote harmony" whilst in power, but warned that the country risked a political deadlock if the demands of the people "are larger than what the current political system can accommodate."

"If this happens, we could lose all the political freedom we have achieved so far," he said.

On the issue of reforms, a parliamentary panel is now reviewing the constitution and is expected to report its recommendations to parliament at the end of January for a vote.

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