Myanmar due to reveal nominations for presidency

Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's (centre) pro-democracy party is due to reveal its nominations for Myanmar's presidency on Thursday (March 10).
Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's (centre) pro-democracy party is due to reveal its nominations for Myanmar's presidency on Thursday (March 10). PHOTO: REUTERS

NAYPYIDAW (AFP) - Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's pro-democracy party is due to reveal its nominations for Myanmar's presidency on Thursday (March 10), after months of fevered speculation over who will be the Nobel laureate's proxy that has left even her own MPs in the dark.

Ms Suu Kyi is barred from top political office by a military-drafted constitution.

But she has vowed to rule "above" the next leader of Myanmar, buoyed by a roaring election victory that gave her party a mandate to comfortably form the country's first popular government in decades.

In an atmosphere of tense excitement in the junta-built capital Naypyidaw, hundreds of newly-minted lawmakers are preparing to select a replacement for outgoing President Thein Sein, who will hand over to his successor on March 31.

They will chose between three possible candidates - one each from the NLD-led lower and upper houses and one from the still powerful army.

The names are due to be revealed on Thursday before being put to a vote later.

Her one-time driver, her doctor, her personal assistant and an elderly general turned democracy activist have all been mooted as possible contenders.

But rank-and-file NLD lawmakers said they were still in the dark about who would be chosen to act as a proxy for Ms Suu Kyi, who is blocked from the presidency because she married and had children with a foreigner.

Speculation swirling among MPs in their barracks-style Naypyidaw dormitories this week was that Mr Htin Kyaw, a genial 69-year-old who helps run Ms Suu Kyi's charitable foundation and once acted as her driver, was the front runner.

"Whoever is nominated by the party, we have to support," one NLD lower house MP told AFP, on condition of anonymity.

Another MP said lawmakers had been given lessons in how to vote for the candidates on Wednesday, in a week where they have also been subjected to rigorous English proficiency tests as Ms Suu Kyi looks to mold her dozens of first-time parliamentarians into shape.

"I'm excited. It's the day we have been waiting for," a third MP said.

Ms Suu Kyi, 70, has not outlined what her precise role will be or how she will be able to play puppet-master to a president.

Some have suggested she could mimic India's Sonia Gandhi, who wielded huge influence over her Congress party's administrations despite having no official government role.

There has also been speculation that she could take the role of foreign minister, which would give her a cabinet post as well as a seat at the country's influential military dominated security council.

But under Myanmar's complex political system, this would mean ceding her party role.

Ms Suu Kyi has vowed to create a government of national reconciliation and the cabinet is expected to contain figures from across the political spectrum.

She has also held several meetings with army chief Min Aung Hlaing in recent months as she strives to smooth relations with the country's military, who retain a quarter of parliamentary seats and control the key home, defence, and border ministries.

The former ruling generals held her under house arrest for 15 years and swatted away the NLD's 1990 election landslide.

But Mr Thein Sein's quasi-civilian government has ushered in a raft of political and economic reforms and vowed to support a handover of power.