Myanmar’s president-elect nominated Aung San Suu Kyi to join the incoming cabinet on Tuesday, giving the National League for Democracy (NLD) leader a formal role in the government that the constitution bars her from leading.
Suu Kyi guided the NLD to a historic landslide election win in November, but cannot assume the presidency under the charter drafted by the former junta because her two sons are British citizens, as was her late husband. She has pledged to circumvent the ban by running the country through a proxy president, and last week the parliament nominated Suu Kyi’s confidant, Htin Kyaw, for the top job.
Until the cabinet nominations were read out to parliament by the speaker on Tuesday, it had been unclear whether Suu Kyi would join the executive or would seek to guide the government from outside as the leader of the ruling party.
The constitution also bars serving ministers from political party activities or sitting in parliament as lawmakers. “It doesn’t matter how many ministries she takes, as she will run the whole government anyway,” said Win Htein, a senior NLD politician close to Suu Kyi.
The 18-member cabinet list submitted by President-elect Htin Kyaw to parliament did not specify the portfolios each minister would hold.
But a separate list obtained by Reuters from sources in parliament showed Nobel peace prize laureate Suu Kyi’s name next to four ministries: minister of the president’s office, foreign affairs, electric power and energy, and education.
It was unclear whether Suu Kyi would run all four departments when the new government takes office next month. A senior NLD member told Reuters her name was put forward for several ministries after some prospective candidates declined to join the cabinet at the last minute.
Holding the post of foreign minister would give Suu Kyi a seat on the National Defence and Security Council, an important presidential advisory group dominated by the still-powerful military.
“Aung San Suu Kyi will entrust the party in parliament in the hands of other NLD elders, as expected, and assume a role within the cabinet,” said Nyantha Maw Lin, managing director at political consultancy Vriens & Partners in Yangon.
“She understands that ultimately, power lies with the executive, which holds the reins on the peace process, foreign policy, the economy, and most importantly, relations with the military.”
The list of proposed ministers also included some former senior government officials, as well as a member of the army-linked Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), reflecting Suu Kyi’s stated desire to form an inclusive government.
“I believe the NLD proposed my name as the minister because they believe in me,” said Thein Swe, a senior USDP member nominated for minister of labour, immigration and population. “I will prioritize (the people) and will look after the people.”