Aung San Suu Kyi uses rare media engagement to stake her claim as destiny’s child – and the mother of dragons?
If you thought dogged democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi would die a quiet political death of a thousand paper cuts from a constitution written to keep her out of power, than you clearly missed yesterday’s media maelstrom.
The National League for Democracy leader held court in what was for so long her gilded cage, inviting the press for a doorstop on the lawns of her Yangon home. And like a conga line of universities keen to bestow honorary degrees the media duly obliged, showing up in good numbers.
Sniffing that something special was in the offing, some of those less prepared lamented their cruel luck at not being let in, shattered and left “crying” after missing it all. (‘Diary of a sore loser who didn’t get into Aung San Suu Kyi’s press conference’ is a must read).
And so they should; it was quite a show, even watching the Twittersphere tornado into overdrive thousands of kilometres away in Canberra. In more than an hour, Aung San Suu Kyi, not always keen on facing the press, answered more than 40 questions.
Many quips will make the highlights reel, but this on her relationship with ousted parliamentary speaker and possibly ex-Union Solidarity and Development Party member Shwe Mann is one of my favourites: “You better ask him.”
In fact, direct was de rigueur. Some seasoned hacks knocked heads to see if decades of know-how could help solicit more than than one-sentence answers. That’s if The Lady could be bothered answering questions at all. Then there were the comments on the Rohingya.
But of course, what really stood out was Aung San Suu Kyi’s claims that if her party the NLD won the election, she would be “above the president”.
When asked what that meant she responded that she had “already made plans”.
“I will run the government and we will have a president who will work in accordance with the policies of the NLD.”
When asked if being above the president was even constitutional, she said there was nothing in the document saying it wasn’t. There is. It’s in clause 58.
“The President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar takes precedence over all other persons throughout the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.”
It left some wondering what role she exactly had in mind, and more importantly, if George RR Martin’s ‘mother of dragons’ had come home to roost:
It’s unclear what supra-presidential role Aung San Suu Kyi envisions for herself. Khaleesi?
— Andrew RC Marshall (@Journotopia) November 5, 2015
But tales of incestuous, dragon-borne monarchs usurped by warriors who’d rather wench than govern, may not be that far from the truth. Clearly the 70-year-old Aung San Suu Kyi is seeing these elections as her best chance to claim back what she sees as her rightful throne.
As New Mandala co-founder Nicholas Farrelly told AFP yesterday, Aung San Suu Kyi is playing hardball.
“She is insistent that a hypothetical NLD mandate is her personal mandate. She also resents any obstacles to her destiny.”
That’s the thing about destiny; big on promises, gritty in reality, and more often than not, the stuff of fairytales. Definitely not the stuff of carefully managed political transitions involving generals who are so nervous about letting go that they are making tacky videos about the long-wilted ‘Arab Spring’.
Of course, all this may be just a bit more bluff and blunder, a final rallying call for her supporters to make sure she and the NLD surge home in Sunday’s ballot.
But what if it’s not? The big question then becomes, when this supposed mandate doesn’t deliver destiny’s child exactly what they want and what they perceive is theirs, who will back away first — The Lady or those old men who’ve ruled for so long? And are these clearly brazen calls to set herself above the constitution enough to disqualify Aung San Suu Kyi after the election? And then what happens?
Come next week, we may have a clearer picture.
James Giggacher is editor of New Mandala. He’s read all of George RR Martin’s books…at least twice.
This article forms part of New Mandala’s ‘Myanmar and the vote‘ series.