Over the past few years, there has been a significant shift in public perceptions of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. While still lauded by many as a champion of democracy, she is increasingly being accused of arrogance and inflexibility. Since the sweeping electoral victory of her National League for Democracy last November, some observers have even suggested that she could replace one authoritarian regime with another.

Suu Kyi has always had her critics. She has been described as imperious, if not autocratic, and accused of refusing to listen to contrary advice. She has been uncomfortable with internal party debate. Disgruntled NLD members claim that she has denied others in the democracy movement opportunities to influence its membership and direction. They say she has resisted grooming a successor and blocked others with leadership ambitions.

Objective reasons?

Since being released from house arrest in 2010, she has revealed other personality traits that do not accord with her public image. She seems to have lost sight of goals such as universal human rights, which she espoused as a prisoner of conscience, and stands accused of putting the pursuit of power above principles. For example, she has declined to speak out against the abuse of Myanmar’s Rohingya community and, in the national elections, the NLD refused to field any Muslim candidates.

During the polls, Suu Kyi effectively reduced all other NLD candidates to proxies by restricting their roles and activities. She reserved the right to make major policy announcements herself. Although denied the presidency by the 2008 constitution (because her two sons are British citizens), she has stated that she intends to be “above the president,” who would “have no authority.” She planned to “run the government” herself and to “make all decisions.”

Please click here to read the full “Andrew Selth: The Lady and authoritarianism in Myanmar” article in the Nikkei Asian Review by Griffith Asia Institute Adjunct Associate Professor, Dr Andrew Selth.