UPDATE: 2:00 a.m. EDT — Myanmar’s parliament Monday elected National League of Democracy’s Htin Kyaw as the country’s new president. Htin Kyaw received 360 of 652 ballots cast in the combined houses of the parliament, Agence France-Presse reported.
Htin Kyaw, a longtime confidant of NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, was widely speculated to be Myanmar’s next leader. He will take office on April 1. After NLD won a landslide victory in the Nov. 8 general elections, Suu Kyi — who has been barred from running for the top political office — had said she would exercise the real power and run the government from behind the scenes.
Myanmar’s parliament opened a session to elect the country’s new president Tuesday. Htin Kyaw, a close aide of Myanmar’s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, is poised to become the first civilian to lead the country in over five decades.
A seven-member parliamentary committee, with Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party in majority, approved three presidential candidates Monday making way for final vote in the combined houses of parliament where NLD has 390 of 657 seats. Of the three contenders, Myint Swe — a hard-line retired lieutenant general — represents a military bloc in the parliament. The third candidate is NLD’s Henry Van Tio, an ethnic Chin lawmaker in the upper house. Reports speculate that Swe is likely to become the vice president and Van Tio the junior vice president.
Htin Kyaw is the son of national poet Min Thu Wun and the son-in-law of a founding member of the country's pro-democracy party. He is one of the first generation of graduates from Rangoon University, now the University of Yangon. He later studied computer science at the University of London for two years and worked as a programmer and analyst in Myanmar until 1975.
"We have planned to vote for Htin Kyaw and practiced not to make any mistake," an NLD lawmaker told Agence France-Presse (AFP) after attending an instruction session by the party Monday afternoon.
Myanmar is on the verge of a drastic transformation from an isolated state to an aspiring democracy. The nation’s new president will replace Thein Sein by the end of the month after five years of army-backed quasi-civilian leadership, AFP reported.
However, Myanmar’s military still remains a strong force and has declined to change a clause in the military-drafted constitution that bars Suu Kyi from top political office. Article 59 (f) of the constitution prohibits anyone with a spouse or children with a different nationality from becoming the president. Suu Kyi’s late husband was British, as are her children.
The NLD won a landslide victory in the Nov. 8 general election, giving the party a majority in both upper and lower houses of Parliament. Suu Kyi has said she would exercise the real power and run the government from behind the scenes.