Myanmar Parliament elects Aung San Suu Kyi ally as upper house chairman

Mr Mahn Win Khaing Than leaving for the opening of the new upper house of Parliament on Feb 3, 2016.
Mr Mahn Win Khaing Than leaving for the opening of the new upper house of Parliament on Feb 3, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

NAYPYITAW (BLOOMBERG) - Myanmar's new popularly elected upper house of Parliament voted on Wednesday (Feb 3) in its opening session for an ally of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi to serve as its chairman, bringing the legislature closer to naming a new president.

Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which gained a dominant majority in both houses in the November polls, chose Mr Mahn Win Khaing Than to serve as the upper house chairman.

The 63-year-old is a member of the Karen ethnic minority group and a grandson of a Cabinet minister assassinated alongside Ms Suu Kyi's father in 1947.

"We, the Amyotha Hluttaw, must work to make laws that are needed and abolish laws that are necessary to get peace, rule of law and national reconciliation," he said in his first remarks to lawmakers, using the upper house's formal name.

"We should not be biased towards race, religions, people, parties and beliefs," he added.

Mr Aye Thar Aung, an ethnic Rakhine from the Arakan National Party, was elected as deputy chairman.

The lower house of Parliament opened on Monday and selected Mr Win Myint, a senior member of Ms Suu Kyi's party, as its chairman. With both house leaders selected, the full attention of Parliament can now turn to nominating and voting on a candidate to serve as president.

Though Ms Suu Kyi holds a seat in the country's first freely elected Parliament since a 1962 coup, she is constitutionally barred from the role of president and has given little hint as to her choice for the role.

President Thein Sein's term doesn't finish until the end of March and so the NLD has some time before it must put forward a candidate.