Htin Kyaw, a close confidant of Myanmar’s Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has been chosen to be the country’s new president.
Htin Kyaw, 69, was elected president on Tuesday by parliament as the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party prepares to take power on April 1.
Because Aung San Suu Kyi was married to a foreign national, she was constitutionally unable to become president, though she has stated she will be in charge of the government.
Until last week, Htin Kyaw was hardly a household name and most people in Myanmar would not have seen him becoming president of the country’s first democratically elected government in more than a half-century.
|One minute Myanmar|
Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, reporting from Bangkok, said there was speculation that Aung San Suu Kyi may become Myanmar’s prime minister – a position that does not currently exist – which could cause friction with the powerful military.
“As prime minister she would be able to travel the world and meet world leaders, basically fulfil the role of being the president without actually having that title,” he said.
There have also been reports that Aung San Suu Kyi could be appointed as the country’s foreign minister.
Aung San Suu Kyi led the NLD to a landslide victory in the November 8 general elections after decades of often repressive rule by Myanmar’s generals.
Htin Kyaw gave up a career in the foreign ministry to help Aung San Suu Kyi, his childhood friend, with her political party.
When Myanmar was under military rule, Htin Kyaw ended up in the junta’s prison along with other pro-democracy activists.
Htin Kyaw is the son of a poet and the son-in-law of a founding member of the country’s pro-democracy movement.
Aung San Suu Kyi nominated him “obviously to show that he is the most trusted person for her”, said Zaw Min, 48, a former NLD member.
“If this kind of person leads the country … it will affect positively on the people of this country.”
Htin Kyaw’s secured 360 votes from among 652 ballots cast in the bicameral parliament, winning a strong majority.
The vote count was read aloud and announced by a parliament official.
The military’s nominee, Myint Swe, won 213 votes and will become the first vice president.
Henry Van Tio, Htin Kyaw’s NLD running mate, won 79 votes and will take the post of second vice president.
Myanmar’s military – with 25 percent of seats in parliament – had questioned Aung San Suu Kyi’s choices for president and vice president.
Myint Swe is seen as a close ally of former junta leader Than Shwe, and remains on a US state department blacklist that bars American companies from doing business with several tycoons and senior military figures connected with the former junta.
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