Htin Kyaw is Myanmar’s first civilian president after decades

Htin Kyaw

In a historic vote, Myanmar’s parliament has elected Htin Kyaw, a close friend and confidant of Nobel laureate and iconic leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as the country’s next president, the first non-military leader after more than 50 years of military rule.

Htin Kyaw is the first civilian president of Myanmar since the army took power in a 1962 coup. Ms. Suu Kyi led National League for Democracy (NLD) to a landslide election victory in November. But an army-drafted constitution barred her from the presidency.    

Constitutional provision

According to chapter 3, no 59(f) of the Myanmar constitution, the president must be someone who “he himself, one of the parents, the spouse, one of the legitimate children or their spouses not owes allegiance to a foreign power”. “[They shall] not be subject of a foreign power or citizen of a foreign country … [or] be persons entitled to enjoy the rights and privileges of a subject of a foreign government or citizen of a foreign country.”

Htin Kyaw runs a charity founded by Ms. Suu Kyi. He is a trusted member of her inner circle since the mid-1990s and is not a lawmaker.

After being elected as president by the parliament, Mr. Kyaw said: “Today’s result is because of the love of people for her. It is the victory of my sister Aung San Suu Kyi.” The majority of the NLD in both houses of parliament ensured a comfortable win for Mr Kyaw. He received 360 of the 652 votes cast.

Military in new power equations

The Myanmar military still retains a grip on the parliament by holding a quarter of the seats. As per the constitutional provisions, the junta retains three ministries and a veto over any changes NLD tries to make in the present constitution. The military candidate, retired general Myint Swe, received 213 votes and elected as the first vice-president.

The relations between the armed forces and Ms. Suu Kyi will determine the success of Myanmar’s most significant break from military rule since the army seized power in 1962. She wants to demilitarise Myanmar’s politics, but to do so, she effectively needs the support of the military itself.

Henry Van Thio, who is the third candidate for the presidency, was also nominated by the NLD. He will be elected as the second vice-president.  Mr. Thio was chosen by Ms. Suu Kyi to represent the country’s numerous ethnic minorities.

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