THE NATIONAL League for Democracy (NLD) yesterday proposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s close aide Htin Kyaw as the next president of Myanmar – a position that he may not be totally in control of, as the Nobel laureate pledged during the election four months ago that she would run the country “above” her proxy.
Htin Kyaw, however, is not a nobody in Myanmar politics although an observer said he only joined the party officially two months ago. The 69-year-old university lecturer was Suu Kyi’s school friend and helps run a charity named after Suu Kyi’s late mother, Daw Khin Kyi.
Htin Kyaw, a soft-spoken economics graduate whose life has been entwined in Myanmar’s struggle for democracy, is the son of influential poet and veteran NLD member Min Thu Wun.
In a varied career, Htin Kyaw also held positions in the industry and foreign affairs ministries in the late 1970s and 1980s before retiring from government service as the military tightened its grip.
He has long been part of Suu Kyi’s inner circle and in the past sometimes acted as the veteran activist’s personal driver.
His wife, Su Su Lwin, is a sitting NLD MP whose late father was once party spokesman.
Though Suu Kyi is banned from the top job under the army-drafted charter, she has still pledged to rule the country from “above” her appointee.
“It’s clear he will be a proxy president,” said Soe Myint Aung of the Taguang Institute of Political Studies in Yangon, echoing terminology used in the local English-language media. “It would be difficult for him to deal with non-NLD party members in the cabinet and administrative officials as he is not a real president, just a puppet president.”
While little is known of the practicalities of the arrangement, the nomination demonstrates her faith in Htin Kyaw’s absolute loyalty to act as her proxy.
While he is the favourite for the post, Htin Kyaw’s nomination will need to go through votes in the NLD-dominated legislature and will not be confirmed for several days.
Under Myanmar’s indirect system for electing a president, three candidates are nominated – one by the lower house, one by the upper house and one by the military bloc in parliament, who under the constitution hold a quarter of seats in both houses.
After the candidates have been vetted by a parliamentary commission, both houses will come together to vote in a joint session, with the winner elected president and the two losing nominees becoming vice presidents.
Since the NLD has a comfortable majority in both chambers it effectively controls two of the nominations. The NLD nominated Henry Van Thio, a member of the Chin ethnic group in the country’s northwest bordering India and Bangladesh, as its candidate from the upper house.
Henry is tipped to be a vice president to represent ethnic minorities, a key component in Myanmar politics.
“I am happy and honoured personally, as well as a Chin ethnic, to be selected to do the highest duty for our country,” Henry said as he left parliament. “We, the ethnic people, will do our best for every sector in the nation-building process.”
To fulfil the military quota, local media have named Thet Swe, a former navy chief who resigned last year to run in the election representing the far-flung Coco Islands. The military MPs, who will make their nomination separately, did not attend the parliament meeting yesterday morning.
The president picks the cabinet that will take over from President Thein Sein’s outgoing government on April 1, with the exception of the heads of the home, defence and border security ministries, which will be appointed by the armed forces chief.