Myanmar Lawmakers Name Htin Kyaw President, Affirming Civilian Rule

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar — Myanmar’s Parliament elected a confidant of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as president on Tuesday, ending decades of leadership by the military and its allies.

U Htin Kyaw, 69, won with more than half the votes. He was considered almost certain to take the presidency after his nomination last week by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, which won majorities in both houses of Parliament in elections in the fall.

“This is the good will and loving kindness of the people. This is a victory of the people. This is sister Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s victory,” Mr. Htin Kyaw told reporters as he left Parliament after the vote, which installed him as Myanmar’s ninth president and the first civilian to hold the post since 1962.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from the presidency by a clause in the military-drafted Constitution that forbids people with foreign relatives from holding the office. Her two sons are British, as was her husband, who died in 1999.

But she has said that she would be “above” the president, a sign of her power as the leader of pro-democratic forces in Myanmar.

“I wish for the people to be happy,” she told her party’s lawmakers on Monday. “This is just a simple goal. But for it, we have been struggling a lot.”

Though the military has eased its control of the government, it still holds many levers of power. One quarter of the seats in both houses of Parliament are reserved for the military, preventing any constitutional amendments without its approval. The military also has direct control of the key ministries of defense, home affairs and border affairs.

The legislature chooses Myanmar’s president from candidates put forward by the military and each house of Parliament. In addition to Mr. Htin Kyaw, the candidates included U Henry Van Thio, 58, an ethnic Chin member of Parliament who was also nominated by the National League for Democracy, and U Myint Swe, 64, a former general who was nominated by the military delegation.

Mr. Myint Swe is on a United States Treasury sanctions list as a supporter of the former authoritarian government.

“We have made our concerns known about this individual and this process, quite frankly, and we’ll monitor it going forward,” John Kirby, a spokesman for the United States State Department, said on Friday when asked about Mr. Myint Swe’s nomination.

Mr. Myint Swe was previously rejected as a presidential candidate because his son-in-law had been an Australian citizen. But government officials said the son-in-law surrendered his foreign citizenship before the election.

On Monday, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi told lawmakers from the National League for Democracy that their party would not try to block Mr. Myint Swe’s candidacy.

“We didn’t do it for the sake of national reconciliation,” she said.

Mr. Htin Kyaw, who will take office on April 1, received 360 of 652 votes. He was trailed by Mr. Myint Swe, who took 213 votes and will become first vice president. Mr. Van Thio received 79 votes and will be second vice president.

In recent weeks, it seemed negotiations might allow Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi to assume the presidency. But no compromise was reached.

Mr. Htin Kyaw studied computer science and was a professor as well as an official at the Trade Ministry and the Foreign Ministry before taking a leadership position in the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, a charity established by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi.

He and Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi will have the difficult task of dealing with Myanmar’s widespread poverty and managing an influx of investment after decades of stagnant growth. Although a peace accord was signed with several ethnic groups, armed conflict with others continues in border regions not controlled by the central government.


Source: The New York Times

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