Myanmar's Suu Kyi to cement power with special 'advisor' role

Aung San Suu Kyi's party moved Thursday to make her a special state adviser, giving her access to every tier of government and cementing her control over Myanmar's first civilian administration in decades.

Hopes are growing the newly sworn-in government can accelerate the country's economic and political rejuvenation after nearly half a century of military repression.

Banned from becoming president by a junta-era constitution, Suu Kyi has vowed to rule "above" the president and picked her school friend and close aide Htin Kyaw for the role.

She already holds four cabinet positions, including foreign minister, after her National League for Democracy (NLD) swept to power in elections last year.

A bill proposing a new position for Suu Kyi was submitted to parliament Thursday, in her party's latest attempt to circumvent the ban on her leading the country.

Mentioning Suu Kyi by name, it says the role would give her "responsibility to the parliament regarding the performance of advice", power to conduct any meetings deemed necessary and a budget.

The post would last for the same five-year term as the president and secure Suu Kyi's access to the legislature, which she was forced to step down from when she joined the cabinet.

The move is expected to receive little resistance from chambers dominated by the NLD.

But it could provoke a military that has firmly stood in the way of the Nobel Peace Prize winner's path to the top post.

It also raises questions about the 70-year-old's ability to juggle several major posts in the new administration: foreign affairs, education, energy and the president's office.

Critics say the roundabout arrangement could jam up a fledgling democracy stacked with novice politicians.

- Popular mandate -

Trevor Wilson, a former Australian ambassador to Myanmar now working at the Australian National University, said Suu Kyi needs to command her party from the front.

"If she's going to be able to achieve even half of what people expect of her, she has to be tough and disciplined," he told AFP.

He added that he would be "astonished" if the new role hadn't been discussed first with Myanmar's military leaders.

Suu Kyi, the daughter of Myanmar's independence hero, has led a decades-long struggle to wrench power from a junta that jailed her and many other democracy activists -- some of whom are now MPs.

Last November's polls, the freest in decades, saw her party rake in 80 percent of available parliamentary seats.

Aung Kyi Nyunt, an upper house MP from central Myanmar who submitted Thursday's bill, said the role reflected the popular mandate Suu Kyi won at the polls.

"The object of the proposal from the bill committee in the upper house parliament is to fulfil the wishes and interests of people who voted on 8 November 2015," he told lawmakers.

Suu Kyi is revered by Myanmar's democracy movement and many believe she has earned the right to lead the country's first civilian government for half a century.

But repeated efforts to amend the charter that disqualifies her from the presidency have been halted by a military that still retains a quarter of parliament's seats, giving it an effective veto over any change.

The junta-scripted constitution rules out anyone with close foreign relatives from the job. Suu Kyi's late husband and two sons are British.

The country's new lawmakers hail from a variety of backgrounds, from doctors to poets, but many have little experience of government.

They are tasked with reviving a battered economy and a society straitjacketed by the army, which ruled with an iron fist between 1962 and 2011, when retired general Thein Sein launched major reforms.