Myanmar's parliament has dealt a blow to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's chances at becoming president by rejecting a bill that would have made constitutional reforms easier to pass, including a change necessary for her to assume the nation's top office.
The bill would have lowered the threshold for constitutional amendments from 75 percent of the parliament to 70 percent, ending the army's legislative veto power.
The bill was proposed by the ruling USDP party and supported by the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), which had collected 5 million signatures in support of the reform.
But Myanmar's military, which opposed the measure, has 25 constitutionally guaranteed parliament seats, enough to block constitutional reforms it does not like.
The constitution forbids anyone with foreign children from running for president. Suu Kyi, whose sons are British, is ineligible for the post.
The longtime democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner said she was "not surprised" at the result Thursday, which followed three days of emotional debate by her fellow lawmakers. She called on her supporters not to be discouraged.
“NLD participation in the election does not depend only on whether the constitution will be amended or not," she said. "We also should consider other factors. Just the fact that the constitution could not be amended will not change the NLD position on the election. Frankly, we believe people can decide on whom they should vote for in the upcoming election, since it is clear now which party is willing to make real changes."
The NLD is expected to gain a significant number of seats in parliamentary elections set for later this year. Despite parliament's decision, she said, the group will not stop pushing for democratic reforms.
Nonetheless, the parliament's decision was seen as a setback for Myanmar's political transition, which began in 2011 when the military, which had ruled the country for decades, handed power to a mostly civilian government.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.