Htin Kyaw has been elected as Myanmar’s first civilian President in over 50 years, officially ending the decades-long military rule. 69-year-old Kyaw is a close aide and longtime friend of National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Kyaw victory’s a clear nod to Suu Kyi’s plan for him to serve as a proxy her as she is constitutionally barred from becoming president.
“This is sister Aung San Suu Kyi’s victory,” the newly elected president told reporters after the vote. “Thank you.”
Kyaw’s victory was announced after a long ballot count in the capital Naypyidaw. Parliamentarians erupted into applause after Htin Kyaw managed 360 of 652 votes that were cast.
Myanmar is in the grip of a stunning transformation from an isolated and repressed pariah state to a rapidly opening aspiring democracy.
Suu Kyi’s party won a thumping victory at the polls in November, allowing her party to dominate Myanmar’s two legislative houses. But the military remains a powerful force in the Southeast Asian nation and has refused to change a clause in the junta-era constitution that bars the nobel laureate from contesting for the top political office.
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.
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 who won 213 votes. He is an army-backed candidate who remains on Washington’s sanctions list. The other Joint Vice President will be ethnic Chin MP Henry Van Thio, who managed only 79 votes.
Most of Myint Swe’s votes came from the army’s parliamentary bloc, which is reserved a quarter of seats in parliament, and from military-backed parties.
Suu Kyi, 70, has unrivalled popularity both as the daughter of the country’s independence hero and as a central figure in the decades-long democracy struggle. Her party’s huge election victory was seen as a further endorsement of her political star power, as millions were swept to polling stations by the NLD’s simple message of change.
But the military still retains significant power, including control of the vital home, defence and border ministries.
Months of negotiations with Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing failed to remove the obstacles that were blocking Suu Kyi from power.
(With inputs from agencies)