Suu Kyi Confidant Htin Kyaw Elected Myanmar’s Next President

  • He will head first democratic government in half-century
  • Suu Kyi barred from serving as president by constitution

Myanmar’s parliament elected a close aide of Aung San Suu Kyi as the country’s next president, the first head of government to come from democratic elections in more than a half-century.

Htin Kyaw is a former classmate and longtime confidant of the National League for Democracy leader, who is constitutionally barred from serving as president herself. Suu Kyi will need someone in the post willing to allow her to pursue a plan to lead the government by being “above the president.”

“By selecting Htin Kyaw, Madam Suu can keep her ‘above the president’ promise,” said Yan Myo Thein, a political analyst in Yangon. “Htin Kyaw is not corrupt, is educated and is trusted by Madam Suu. Most senior members of the NLD, including Htin Kyaw, will follow her leadership.”

The NLD scored a resounding win in November’s election and dominates both houses of parliament, meaning the party was able to nominate and elect the president of its choosing, though not Suu Kyi. She had met army chief Min Aung Hlaing several times to discuss the power transfer and a possible change to the constitution, but was unable to reach a deal.

Htin Kyaw was elected Tuesday by a majority of parliament’s members. His opponents -- Henry Van Thio, an ethnic Chin lawmaker from the NLD, and Myint Swe, a former general nominated by parliament’s military appointees -- will become vice presidents.

Though he is not a lawmaker, Htin Kyaw’s ties with the party and Suu Kyi run deep. He attended the same secondary school as Suu Kyi and went on to study at the Yangon Institute of Economics and at the University of London. He currently serves as a director at the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, a charitable organization named after Suu Kyi’s mother.

He is the son of renowned Myanmar writer Min Thu Wun, who was an early member of the NLD. He is married to Suu Suu Lwin, an NLD lawmaker who is the daughter of U Lwin, a former finance minister who helped form the NLD.

Suu Kyi, 70, and her party are longtime opponents of the generals who ruled the country until 2011, when they handed power to their political arm. The party has been vague about its plans once the handover from President Thein Sein’s government is completed on April 1. While its election manifesto covered everything from the economy to education to ethnic relations, the document included few concrete details.

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