Myanmar picks new president

Thein Sein, Myanmar's outgoing PM, has been chosen to become the military-run country's first civilian president.

    The military's delegates in parliament and their civilian allies have an 80 per cent majority in the new legislature [EPA]

    Thein Sein, Myanmar's outgoing prime minister, has been chosen to become the military-run country's first civilian president in half a century in  a cosmetic shift that does little to end the army's dominance in politics.

    The new parliament named Thein Sein president on Friday after selecting him from a pool of three vice presidents chosen a day earlier.

    Khin Shwe, an upper house member, said Thein Sein won 408 out of 659 votes.

    The selection of a new government is the latest step in Myanmar's so-called transition to democracy, which critics call a sham designed to cement military rule.

    The military's delegates in parliament and their civilian allies hold an 80 per cent majority in the new legislature.

    Thein Sein, 65 years old, is a career soldier who joined the military junta in 1997 when it was reorganised. He replaced General Soe Win as premier in 2007 and has been the regime's international face at regional forums.

    'Clean soldier'

    Thein is a former general who heads the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which won a huge majority in November's general elections that much of the international community dismissed as rigged in favor of the government.

    Thein Sein also has an image as a "clean" soldier, not engaged in corruption. Still, as prime minister since October 2007 and the fourth ranking military leader in the junta, Thein Sein did not have much decision making power.

    Senior Gen. Than Shwe has wielded absolute power in the country since his rise to power in 1992. It is not clear what his role will be in the future, but he is expected to remain a dominant force no matter who becomes president.

    Under the 2008 constitution that came into force on Monday with the opening of the union parliament, the president appoints the commander in chief, chief ministers of the regions and states, cabinet ministers and also head the national defence and security council.

    The army has held power in Myanmar since 1962.

    The party of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, which won the last elections in 1990 but was blocked from taking power by the military, boycotted November's vote, calling it unfair.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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