Myanmar's Suu Kyi gains 5 mn signatures in presidency fight

Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi addresses delegates from her National League for Democracy (NLD) in Yangon, on July 5, 2014
Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi addresses delegates from her National League for Democracy (NLD) in Yangon, on July 5, 2014 (AFP Photo/Ye Aung Thu)

Myanmar's opposition said on Wednesday almost five million people had signed a petition seen as a step towards ending a constitutional ban on veteran activist Aung San Suu Kyi running for president.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) hailed the petition, publicised in rallies across the country as part of its efforts to amend the country's charter, which was drafted by the former junta.

"We see this campaign as very successful," party spokesman Nyan Win told reporters, adding that some 4.9 million people had signed the document out of some 20 million potential voters.

The appeal, which was launched in May for signatories aged over 18, targeted a provision that currently ensures the military has a veto on any amendment to the constitution.

The NLD believes revising that clause will open the way for further changes to other constitutional provisions, including the ring fenced proportion of soldiers in parliament and the effective bar on Suu Kyi leading the country.

As it stands, the Nobel laureate is ineligible because of a clause in the 2008 charter blocking anyone whose spouse or children are overseas citizens from leading the country. Suu Kyi's two sons are British.

To alter the constitution there needs to be support from a majority of more than 75 percent of parliament.

Unelected soldiers make up a quarter of the legislature and therefore have the last say.

The wrangle over the constitution comes as Myanmar edges towards landmark 2015 elections that could sweep Suu Kyi's party into power -- if they are free and fair.

The president will later be elected by parliament, where Suu Kyi currently serves as an MP as part of reforms by a quasi-civilian government that came to power three years ago.

A committee charged with suggesting charter amendments has said it will not take the petition into consideration, although it is thought likely to recommend a change to the 75 percent threshold.

Veteran democracy activist Ko Ko Gyi, whose Generation 88 group backed the petition, said the greatest benefit of the petition was to raise "awaken political consciousness" in a country that languished under military rule for decades.