History has been created in Myanmar today with the country electing Htin Kyaw as its first civilian President in decades. Mr. Kyaw, 69, is a close aide and long time friend of the Aung San Suu Kyi.
He has hailed the elevation as “Suu Kyi’s victory”, a clear nod to her plan for him to serve as a proxy for the Nobel laureate who is constitutionally barred from becoming president.
Myanmar is in the grip of a stunning transformation from an isolated and repressed pariah state to a rapidly opening aspiring democracy. MPs erupted into applause after victory was announced following a lengthy ballot count by hand in the capital Naypyidaw in which Htin Kyaw took 360 of 652 votes cast.
Though Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won a thumping victory at the polls in November, allowing her party to dominate Myanmar’s two legislative houses, the military remains a powerful force in the Southeast Asian nation. It has refused to change a clause in the junta-era constitution that bars Suu Kyi from top political office.
To this the veteran activist has instead vowed to rule “above” the next leader. Her choice of Htin Kyaw to act in her place is seen as a testament to her absolute faith in his loyalty.
“This is sister Aung San Suu Kyi’s victory,” the newly elected president told reporters after the vote. “Thank you.”
Htin Kyaw will take office on 1 April, replacing incumbent Thein Sein’s five years of army-backed quasi-civilian leadership that has been lauded for steering the nation out from the shadow of outright military rule.
The two other candidates who were also running in Tuesday’s election will now become the country’s joint vice presidents. They are retired general Myint Swe, an army-backed candidate who remains on Washington’s sanctions list and won 213 votes, and ethnic Chin MP Henry Van Thio, who gathered 79 votes.