Myanmar Elects Htin Kyaw as First Civilian President After 56 Years

Democratic Transition from a Half-Century of Military Rule

April 19th, 2016

Myanmar's parliament has elected Htin Kyaw as the country's next president, the first civilian leader after 56 years of military rule. Htin Kyaw won with 360 of the 652 votes cast in the two houses of parliament. In second place was Myint Swe, who was nominated by the military and received 213 votes. He was followed by Htin Kyaw's running mate and ethnic Chin candidate Henry Van Thio, who got 79 votes. They will serve as first vice-president and second vice-president respectively.

 Htin Kyaw is a close ally of Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights. Aung San Suu Kyi National League for Democracy (NLD) party swept to victory in historic elections in November 2015, giving the party a majority in both upper and lower houses of Parliament. Since the NLD has a huge majority in both houses of parliament, despite the military occupying 25% of seats, the candidate it backed was all but guaranteed to win. After the winning Htin Kyaw said "Victory! This is sister Aung San Suu Kyi's victory. Thank you." Aung San Suu Kyi despite her popularity and prominence in Myanmar could not take the presidency herself. Despite weeks of negotiation prior to the vote, the NLD were unable to persuade the military to remove or suspend the clause to allow Ms Suu Kyi to take office. Article 59 (f) of the constitution prohibits anyone with a spouse or children with a different nationality from becoming the president. Suu Kyi’s late husband was British, as are her children. However, Myanmar’s military still remains a strong force and has declined to change a clause in the military-drafted constitution that bars Suu Kyi from top political office. But she will hold several ministerial positions in the new government.

Htin Kyaw, 70, attended university in the UK. He has a reputation for honesty and loyalty, and has kept a low profile. His father, the writer and poet Min Thu Wun, won a seat for the party at the 1990 election. His wife, Su Su Lwin, is the daughter of an NLD founder, as well as being a sitting MP, and a prominent party member. The new president and his government will have to face major challenges, including poverty and the army, which still has a lot of political and economic power. Three ministries will continue to be led by members of the military junta as well.


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Cultural Diplomacy News
Urška Čelig, CD News