Myanmar's Parliament Elects Aung San Suu Kyi's Proxy as President

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Htin Kyaw leaves parliament after being elected president of Myanmar, March 15, 2016.
Htin Kyaw leaves parliament after being elected president of Myanmar, March 15, 2016.

Myanmar's parliament has confirmed Htin Kyaw, a trusted aide of Aung San Suu Kyi, as the country's next president in a landmark vote.

The lower and upper houses of parliament dominated by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy voted him as the first leader without a military background to take power in more than five decades.

Htin Kyaw, 69, garnered 360 of the 652 votes cast to beat his closest rival Myint Swe, an ex-military general, who gained 213 votes. Another contestant Chin MP Henry Van Thio collected 79 votes.

After the vote, Win Khaing Than, head of parliament, announced that Htin Kyaw would be president, taking over from incumbent Thein Sein beginning April 1.

Myint Swe, an army-backed candidate who remains on the U.S.sanctions list, will be first vice-president and Henry Van Thio the second vice-president, Win Khaing Than said.

"This is sister Aung San Suu Kyi's victory. Thank you," Htin Kyaw, the son of a national poet, told reporters after the vote.

Suu Kyi's NLD scored a landslide victory in general elections in November last year but the constitution drafted by the former military junta bars her from the top office because of a constitutional clause that excludes anyone with a foreign spouse or children.

Suu Kyi's two sons are British, as was her late husband.

She has defiantly declared that she would run the country anyway through a proxy president.

Suu Kyi applauds vote

Aung San Suu Kyi, who sat in the front row of parliament, was seen smiling and clapping after Htin Kyaw's election but did not make any immediate comments.

A week ago, the NLD nominated Htin Kyaw, who runs a charity founded by the Nobel laureate and has been a trusted member of her inner circle since the mid-1990s, for the top role and Henry Van Thio as his running mate.

The military, which holds a quarter of the seats in parliament, picked Myint Swe, seen as a hardliner and close ally of former junta leader Than Shwe.

The military's choice of Myint Swe, a former military intelligence chief still on a U.S. blacklist, is seen as having gone against the spirit of reconciliation, which Aung San Suu Kyi has been striving to foster since her election victory, NLD sources said.

The NLD has said that more than half of the cabinet members in the new government to be formed next month will be non-party intellectuals.

The military junta, that had ruled Myanmar since a 1962 coup, in 2011 handed power to a quasi-civilian government led by outgoing president Thein Sein and other ex-generals.

The junta, however, drafted a constitution that in addition to preventing Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president, also gives the military three powerful ministries and 25 percent of the seats in parliament — granting a veto over constitutional change.

Reported by Win Naing for RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Win Naing. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.





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