Myanmar NLD nominates Htin Kyaw as presidential candidate

Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD) on Thursday nominated Htin Kyaw, Aung San Suu Kyi’s close aide, as presidential candidate for the country’s lower house.

Posted 10 Mar 2016 11:47 Updated 10 Mar 2016 16:32

NAYPYIDAW: Aung San Suu Kyi’s party Thursday (Mar 10) nominated her close aide to be Myanmar’s next president, as the Nobel laureate looks to rule her former junta-run homeland through a trusted proxy.

Suu Kyi has vowed to rule “above” the president, despite being barred from top office by the army-scripted constitution, as she strives to fulfil the huge mandate delivered by millions of Myanmar voters in her National League for Democracy’s landslide election victory in November.

“I would like to propose U Htin Kyaw, from the NLD,” said Khin San Hlaing, a lower house MP for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, which will also nominate another candidate from the upper house.

The selection of Htin Kyaw, a genial 69-year-old who went to school with Suu Kyi and now helps run her charitable foundation, comes after months of fevered speculation.

Even her own MPs were kept in the dark about the deliberations, with the party fearful of upsetting a delicate political transition in a nation where the military still casts a long shadow.

Former ruling party USDP nominated its current Vice President Dr Sai Mauk Kham as potential nominee. However, he was not present at the parliament.

The upper house nominees were former speaker Khin Aung Myint and Henry Van Hti Yu, an ethnic Chin NLD lawmaker.

NLD party leader Suu Kyi is barred from top political office by a military-drafted constitution.

Speculation on the NLD presidential nominee ranged from Suu Kyi’s personal physician to her chief-of-staff. In recent days, it focused on close friend Htin Kyaw.

The son of well-regarded poet and veteran NLD member Min Thu Wun, Htin Kyaw is a soft-spoken economics graduate whose life, like Suu Kyi’s, has been entwined with Myanmar’s democracy struggle.

He has long been part of Suu Kyi’s inner circle while his wife Su Su Lwin is a sitting NLD MP whose late father was once party spokesman.

In a varied career Htin Kyaw worked as a university teacher and also held positions in the industry and foreign affairs ministries in the late 1970s and 80s before retiring from government service as the military tightened its grip.

He is currently a senior executive in Suu Kyi’s charity, the Daw Khin Kyi foundation named after her mother, which provides development aid and skills training to Suu Kyi’s Kawhmu constituency and other areas of the impoverished country.

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.

Lawmakers filed into both houses of parliament early Thursday, with the burnt orange jackets of NLD legislators’ the dominant color, where they will nominate candidates for the presidency.

“It’s a historic moment for our country,” said Kyaw Min, a NLD lawmaker in the lower house. “I can’t find words to describe how I feel now. I am excited. We can see our future very clearly now but our excitement shouldn’t blind us.”

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.

– CNA/AFP/Reuters/pp