Myanmar's new president to be picked on Tuesday, lawmakers confirm

Htin Kyaw, close friend of Aung San Suu Kyi and forerunner of Myanmar's presidential race.
Htin Kyaw, close friend of Aung San Suu Kyi and forerunner of Myanmar's presidential race.PHOTO: REUTERS

Naypyidaw, Myanmar (AFP) - Myanmar's parliament confirmed it will pick the country's new president on Tuesday (March 15) after the three proposed candidates, including a close aide of Aung San Suu Kyi, passed a final administrative hurdle.

The vote comes as the formerly army-ruled nation transitions towards its first civilian government in decades.

The frontrunner is Htin Kyaw, a respected writer and close friend of Suu Kyi.

He has been put forward by her National League for Democracy party to act as a proxy for democracy veteran Suu Kyi, who is barred from the highest office by a junta-scripted charter.

Under Myanmar's complex constitution, the president is chosen from three candidates - one put forward by each of the two legislative chambers and a third proposed by the military, who are reserved a quarter of the seats in parliament.

All three candidates were approved by a final scrutiny committee on Monday.

Mann Win Khaing Than, the speaker of both houses, said lawmakers would now cast their votes on Tuesday with the winner becoming president and the two runners up automatically becoming vice presidents.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) triumphed in last November's landmark election and comfortably controls both houses, meaning her preferred choice of Htin Kyaw is all but guaranteed to win.

The two other candidates are ethnic Chin MP Henry Van Thio, a Suu Kyi ally put forward by the upper house, and the military's candidate Myint Swe, a retired army general still blacklisted by the United States.

Suu Kyi is barred from the top office because she married and had children with a foreigner.

She is beloved by many in Myanmar and the uncontested figurehead of the long struggle for democracy.

But months of negotiations failed to persuade the military to scrap the ban on her becoming president.

She has nevertheless vowed to rule "above" the next president as she strives to meet the soaring expectations of millions of voters.

Though he did not run in November's polls, Htin Kyaw is a close and trusted confidante.

He commands significant respect in Myanmar, partly because his father was a legendary writer and early member of the NLD. He is married to sitting NLD MP Su Su Lwin, whose late father was the party's respected spokesman.

Htin Kyaw sometimes drove for the democracy activist during her brief moments of freedom from house arrest, and was at her side when she was finally freed in 2010.