By John Zaw
Former Myanmar lower house speaker Win Myint has been elected as a vice-president as the first step in his expected ascension to the presidency of the troubled nation on March 26.
The lower house of parliament, dominated by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), voted 273-27 in favour of Win Myint in a ballot on March 23 also contested by a candidate from the military-linked Union Solidarity and Development Party.
Win Myint, 66, will replace Htin Kyaw, 71, who resigned as president on March 21 due to continued ill health after less than two years in the post.
Nyan Win, a central executive committee member from the ruling NLD, said the new president would exercise more executive powers and share the responsibilities of State Counselor Suu Kyi, who has shouldered a very heavy workload.
“Win Myint is a law advocate, strict and very thorough in detail. So he will be able to contribute to the governance and development of the country,” Nyan Win told ucanews.com.
Suu Kyi, who remains a popular democracy champion in Myanmar despite growing international criticism over her failure on the Rohingya crisis in Rakhine, is barred from becoming president under the military-drafted constitution as she was married to a foreigner.
She is still close to absolute power in the NLD after vowing before her 2015 election victory that she would be “above the president.” She leads the country via the specially created role of state counselor and is also foreign minister.
But the military still wields enormous power through its control of the defense, home affairs and border ministries.
Shay Ray Shu Mg, a Catholic and upper house lawmaker from the NLD in Kayah State, eastern Myanmar, said it is certain Win Myint will be elected as the new president.
“I see Win Myint as the right choice for president. The former president was honest, calm and quiet, but Win Myint has enough experience of handling the parliament to help with governing,” Shay Ray told ucanews.com.
Win Myint has been credited with the view that the army should withdraw from ethnic homelands to allow the rebuilding of trust, so observers noted that this could prove an interesting test for the relationship between the NLD and the military.
Win Myint is a member of the majority ethnic Bamar Buddhists and one of Suu Kyi’s inner circle. He graduated from the University of Yangon in geology and became a High Court advocate in 1985.
He aligned with the opposition and was involved in the 1988 uprising that brought down the Ne Win regime. He was briefly jailed by the Than Shwe-led junta three times.
He took part in the 1990 elections from Danuphyu constituency in the Irrawaddy Delta but the results were annulled by the then military regime.
He was elected as a legislator from Pathein constituency in a 2012 by-election. He also was elected as a lawmaker in the 2015 general election, representing Yangon region’s Tamway constituency.