Myanmar Might Get a Woman President Before the United States Does

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Aung San Suu-Kyi Visits Kawhmu During Campaign Trail
Aung San Suu Kyi has been fighting for democracy all her life.Photo: Lauren DeCicca/2015 Getty Images

Myanmar might get its first woman president before the United States does, even though the leading candidate — Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi — is, at least for now, constitutionally ineligible for the job. Back in November, the National League for Democracy party, which is led by Suu Kyi, won national elections by a landslide, ending decades of military rule. As Suu Kyi — who spent 21 years as a political prisoner before her release in 2010 — is the clear favorite to become president, the NLD is in talks with commander-in-chief General Min Aung Hlaing to get around the law, and the negotiation is going well, The Guardian reports.

Myanmar’s constitution (chapter three, no 59(f), if you want to get really specific) requires that “he himself, one of the parents, the spouse, one of the legitimate children or their spouses not owe allegiance to a foreign power.” That he suggests that only a man can be elected president, although, fortunately, nobody seems to be trying to make that point. On top of that, and less arguably, Suu Kyi’s late husband, as well as both of her sons, were and are British, making her ineligible. There’s also a clause that necessitates the president have military experience (she doesn’t). Since 25 percent of seats in both houses of parliament are reserved for the military, and the NLD has most but not all of the rest, it will need to pull some military leaders over to its side to override that clause of the constitution. (Doing so will require 75 percent of the vote.)

Despite the obstacles, NLD central committee member Kyaw Htwe expressed optimism. “I think everything will be fine,” he told The Guardian. “The negotiations will be positive for our leader Aung San Suu Kyi to become president.” (Apparently Myanmar birthers are less numerous than American ones are.) The official nominees won’t be announced until March 17; there will be one each from the upper house of parliament, the lower house, and the military. Even if she doesn’t win the nomination, with her party in power Suu Kyi will likely run things from behind the scenes because, let’s be honest, women get shit done.