NAYPYITAW, MYANMAR: Myanmar’s parliament votes on Tuesday to pick the country’s next president from a group of three final candidates, including a front runner who is a long-time confidant of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won overwhelming majorities in both houses of parliament in a Nov. 8 general election and its lawmakers are expected to confirm party nominee Htin Kyaw as the country’s next leader.
The new president is to take office on April 1.
Myanmar’s constitution, written under the former military junta’s direction, blocks Suu Kyi from becoming president because of a clause that excludes anyone with a foreign spouse or children. Suu Kyi’s two sons are British, as was her late husband. The clause is widely seen as having been written by the military with Suu Kyi in mind.
Suu Kyi has said she will be “above” the president and rule from behind the scenes, meaning that any NLD candidate would effectively be her proxy.
Myanmar’s electoral system requires that the president be chosen from candidates put forward by each of the two houses of parliament, and a third nominee from the military, which retains a quarter of the legislative seats.
Parliament speaker Mann Win Khaing Than announced Monday that the vote would take place Tuesday, after lawmakers confirmed that all three candidates were eligible.
The candidate with the most votes becomes president and the other two become vice presidents. The other nominees are NLD lawmaker Henry Van Tio and the military’s candidate, Myint Swe, a hard-line retired lieutenant general whose nomination raised concerns about the future of a power-sharing relationship with the NLD.
Myint Swe is seen as a close ally of former junta leader Than Shwe and remains on a U.S. State Department blacklist that bars American companies from doing business with several tycoons and senior military figures connected with the former junta.
State Department spokesman John Kirby confirmed that Myint Swe still faces sanctions but declined to say if that would affect diplomatic relations.
“We have made our concerns known about this individual and this process, quite frankly. And we’ll monitor it going forward,” Kirby told a news briefing in Washington on Friday.
The U.S. has eased sanctions since the junta ceded power to a quasi-civilian government in 2011. The November election will usher in the country’s first democratically elected government in more than half a century.
The NLD’s huge victory reflected the widespread public support for Suu Kyi, who fought for decades to end dictatorship in Myanmar and remains her party’s unquestioned leader. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while under house arrest in 1991.
Suu Kyi was detained for more than 15 years, mostly under house arrest, by a junta that feared her political popularity.