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Myanmar Rules Out Key Constitutional Change Before Next Election

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi shake hands during a news conference at her home in Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 14, 2014.

The speaker of the parliament in Myanmar says the military-drafted constitution that bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president cannot be changed before elections next November.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday in the capital, Naypyidaw, Shwe Mann said voters would be able to take part in a nationwide referendum on constitutional changes in May. He said it would be impossible for any changes to go into effect immediately.

"Some draft laws will need a referendum," he said. "We need the people to vote on them. This will be held next May — 2015. The results of this referendum will have to be ratified by both the upper and lower houses, which will be convened after the 2015 elections."

He did not elaborate on why changes must wait until the next parliament is seated in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Aung Kyi Nyunt, a member of parliament from Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, told VOA that delaying the changes was a mistake.

"This will have an impact not only on the peace deal discussions but also on other discussions related to stability issues," he said. "It will also impact issues related to the international community."

Aung San Suu Kyi is prohibited from becoming president by a constitutional clause that bars anyone with a spouse or children who are citizens of a foreign nation from leading the country.

Her sons are British. Her late husband was also a citizen of the United Kingdom.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.