Myanmar presidential candidates announced with new leader due by end of this month
|Central executive committee member of the NLD, Htin Kyaw, is expected to be the next president.|
Reuters: Soe Zeya Tun
By Liam Cochrane
March 10, 2016
A trusted right-hand man of Aung San Suu Kyi, Htin Kyaw, looks certain to be become Myanmar's next president after three candidates were put forward by Ms Suu Kyi's party and the military.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) has chosen Htin Kyaw and Henry Van Hti Yu, an ethnic Chin representative. The military also picked a candidate, former speaker Khin Aung Myint.
The NLD controls Parliament after last year's election so it is almost certain Htin Kyaw will become president when a vote is held later this month.
"I think this will be regarded as an excellent choice by most people, he's an extremely calm figure," said Sean Turnell, an associate professor at Macquarie University and an NLD advisor.
Henry Van Hti Yu, 58, is himself a former military officer and is now an upper house MP for the Chin constituency.
"He comes from the Chin ethnic community, who are among Burma's poorest communities ... [and] I think that does tell us something about the objectives of the new Government," Mr Turnell said.
Two of the candidates will become vice-presidents. A date has not yet been set for the combined parliamentary vote for the nation's new leader.
As part of Myanmar's drawn-out transfer of power, the upper and lower house nominate a presidential candidate, as does the military which retains a 25 per cent bloc of seats.
Incumbent President Thein Sein will formally step down on March 30, and the new president will address the nation on March 31.
NLD party leader and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from becoming president because her sons hold British citizenship, a Constitutional clause widely thought to have been introduced by the military junta to limit her power.
Ms Suu Kyi has made it clear she intends to rule "from above", making the new president effectively her proxy.
It is not clear what role 'The Lady' will play in the new Government.
There is speculation she may pull the strings as a senior minister within cabinet, become foreign minister, or even try to create a new prime minister role.
The presidential announcements in the capital Naypyidaw are the latest part of a seismic political shift, which has seen Myanmar emerge from decades of dictatorship and make rapid progress toward democracy.
However the military retains significant power with key ministries and a parliamentary veto, and relations between the generals and Ms Suu Kyi has reportedly been strained in recent weeks.
|Aung San Suu Kyi and Htin Kyaw (R) walk towards the gate of her house to meet with supporters after her release in November 2010. (AFP/STR)|
Who is probable president Htin Kyaw?
Born in 1946, Htin Kyaw has played a low-profile role in Myanmar's political landscape, until now.
He is considered one of Aung San Suu Kyi's most trusted aides and occasionally acted as her driver when she was released from long periods of house arrest.
Htin Kyaw has been a senior executive with the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, an education charity group named after Ms Suu Kyi's mother.
His father, Min Thu Wun, was a national poet and won a seat for the NLD in the 1990 election that was ignored by the military junta.
One of the co-founders of the National League for Democracy, U Lwin, is his father-in-law.
Htin Kyaw graduated from the Rangoon Institute of Economics and Oxford, and has written books under the pen name Dala Ban, which means 'Mon Warrior'. Within the party he is respected as an honest and scholarly man.
His Australian-educated wife, Su Su Lwin, is one of Myanmar's many new MPs and is chairwoman of the House of Representatives' International Relation Committee.
"His wife will likely be a very leading figure in the new Government as well, perhaps even foreign minister," said Mr Turnell.
The balance of power between the entrenched military and the ambitious newcomers to Parliament will be a key struggle for Myanmar, as it tries to move on from its past as an isolated dictatorship.