The party of Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement, named a longtime party loyalist as the country’s likely next president, and a party official reiterated that he would answer to Ms Suu Kyi while in office.
Mr Htin Kyaw, 69, was nominated by the National League for Democracy (NLD), which controls both Upper and Lower Houses of Myanmar’s new Parliament after its sweeping victory in November elections. The party nominated two candidates, one of whom is expected to become vice-president.
Mr Tun Tun Hein, a member of the party’s central executive committee, said Mr Htin Kyaw was the party’s choice for the presidency, and he confirmed Ms Suu Kyi’s earlier assertion that the president would essentially be her subordinate.
“She will hold the post handling three institutions: The government, the Parliament and the party,” Mr Tun Hein said.
Mr Htin Kyaw, a former director in the Ministry of Trade, went to school with Ms Suu Kyi. His late father was a famous writer and poet, Min Thu Wun, who was also a prominent figure in the NLD. Mr Htin Kyaw’s late father-in-law, Lwin, was a co-founder of the party, and his wife, Su Su Lwin, is an MP.
The NLD’s other nominee yesterday was Henry Van Thio, 58, an ethnic Chin member of Parliament. He is something of an anomaly as a Christian in a largely Buddhist nation and a former army major in a political party that has sought to wrest power from the military.
The party wants Mr Van Thio to become a vice-president to represent the country’s myriad ethnic minorities, said executive committee member Han Tha Myint.
“I am happy and honoured personally, as well as a Chin ethnic, to be selected to do the highest duty for our country,” Mr Van Thio said as he left Parliament. “We, the ethnic people, will do our best for every sector in the nation-building process.”
Lower House NLD lawmaker Myint Myint Soe said he was happy with the choices.
“I believe our leader Aung San Suu Kyi chose the people for these positions. I know Htin Kyaw personally and I think he is a nice person.”
Ms Suu Kyi spoke to MPs late yesterday at a closed-door meeting that was partially overheard by throngs of journalists outside.
“I believe people will like our chosen presidential nominees,” she said.
Observers welcomed the choice.
“I think he’s probably the best fit for the job, someone of proven and longstanding loyalty to (Suu Kyi) and also a person of considerable standing in his own right,” Myanmar historian and political analyst Thant Myint-U told AFP.
Under Myanmar’s indirect system for electing a president, three candidates are nominated: One by the Lower House, one by the Upper House, and one by the military bloc in parliament, who under the Constitution hold a quarter of seats in both houses.
After the candidates have been vetted by a parliamentary commission, both Houses will come together to vote in a joint session, with the winner elected president and the two losing nominees becoming vice-presidents. Because the NLD has a comfortable majority in both chambers it effectively controls two of the nominations.
The new president will replace Mr Thein Sein, a former general who oversaw a gradual reduction in military control and the increasing democratisation of Myanmar, after decades of outright military rule.
Ms Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate who spent 15 of 21 years under house arrest, is by far the country’s most popular politician, but she is barred by the Constitution from serving as president because her two sons have foreign citizenship, as did her late husband.
During the election campaign last year, Ms Suu Kyi dismissed concern over her role in the new government, saying that she would be “above the president.”
The iconic pro-democracy leader is set to become “senior minister” in the cabinet, according to Bangkok Post, quoting senior sources in the NLD.
The new position will possibly be within the president’s office, where she will effectively run the government, or as head of a new ministry to oversee the transition and the development of democracy.
“She will be chief minister and direct policy,” Bangkok Post quoted a senior NLD source, who declined to be named as he had no authority to speak on behalf of the party.
“It will in effect be the prime minister’s post or Chief de Cabinet,” he added.
The military–backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which was crushed in last November’s elections, also put forward a candidate yesterday, although the current ruling party now only holds a handful of seats.
Mr Sai Mauk Kham, the current vice-president, was nominated as the party’s Lower House candidate, and Mr Khin Aung Myint, former Speaker of the Upper House, was expected to be named as its Upper House candidate.
The two chambers are scheduled to vote this morning to select one candidate each