Myanmar Parliament Elects Suu Kyi Ally as Upper House Chairman

  • Ethnic Karen lawmaker's grandfather served Suu Kyi's father
  • Both houses of parliament now open as presidential pick looms

Aung San Suu Kyi.

Photographer: Ye Aung Thu/AFP via Getty Images

Myanmar’s new popularly elected upper house of parliament voted Wednesday in its opening session for an ally of Aung San Suu Kyi to serve as its chairman, bringing the legislature closer to naming a new president.

QuickTake Myanmar’s Transition

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, which gained a dominant majority in both houses in November polls, chose Mahn Win Khaing Than to serve as the upper house chairman. Mahn Win Khaing Than, 63, is a member of the Karen ethnic minority group and a grandson of a cabinet minister assassinated alongside 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 toward race, religions, people, parties and beliefs."

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

The lower house of parliament opened Monday and selected Win Myint, a senior member of 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 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, so the NLD has some time before it must put forward a candidate.