“Myanmar’s Presidential Elections”, by ISEAS Fellow, Moe Thuzar

Commentary 2016/2, 16 March 2016.

On 15 March 2016, Myanmar’s newly elected parliament convened to choose the president from among three vice-presidential nominees. The candidate with the most votes would become the President-elect. Apart from a member of parliament who had earlier applied for a leave of absence, all members of Myanmar’s newly elected parliament were in attendance. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi cast the first of 652 votes for the country’s political leader. 

U Htin Kyaw – a NLD stalwart and close confidante of Daw Suu – had been tipped to win since his nomination last week the presidency. Indeed, with 360 votes, U Htin Kyaw has become the 9th President of the country, and its first democratically elected civilian president since 1962.

The military’s nomination of U Myint Swe – the current Chief Minister of Yangon with a dubious business track record and a military hardliner background – garnered the second highest number of votes, at 213. As Vice-President 1, U Myint Swe is next in line to the President.

The NLD’s second nominee for vice-president, U Henry Van Thio, a Chin national, won 79 votes, confirming him as Vice President 2.

The NLD’s super-majority in parliament has worked to ensure that U Htin Kyaw gained the presidency with a comfortable majority, while the bulk of votes for U Myint Swe came from the military contingent in parliament, the USDP representatives and a handful of others with links to the military.

Myanmar’s march towards democratic transition, which began in 2010, is now set for the next stage of establishing civilian rule and the practice of democracy. The NLD has announced that the new cabinet composition would be announced early next week. The military’s choice of vice-president indicates it will influence the pace of the transition process in a way which will not impinge on red line issues, including constitutional amendment. With the military still nominating Home Affairs, Border Affairs, and Defence ministers, Myanmar’s political scene in 2016 will continue to see different centres of power seeking to influence the transition. Not least, Daw Suu’s role ‘above the president’ in steering the transition will continue to be the focus of attention.

* Ms Moe Thuzar is ISEAS Fellow at the Myanmar Country Studies Programme; email: moe@iseas.edu.sg

The facts and views expressed are solely that of the author/authors and do not necessarily reflect that of ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.  No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission.