Myanmar's parliament elects a new president

Win Myint is seen as a Suu Kyi loyalist who will adopt a largely ceremonial role like his predecessor
Myanmar's parliament elects a new president

In this file photo taken on Jan. 29, 2016, Win Myint, the speaker of the lower house, attends the last day of parliament's regular session in Naypyidaw. An ally of Myanmar's de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Win Myint was elected the country's new president on March 28. (Photo by Ye Aung Thu/AFP)

Myanmar's parliament overwhelmingly elected Win Myint, a close aid to de-facto leader Aung San Su Kyi, as the country's new president on March 28.

The former Lower House speaker and one of the country's three vice-presidents replaces Htin Kyaw, who resigned last week for health reasons.

Like his predecessor Win Myint's role will largely be ceremonial.

He is seen as a Suu Kyi loyalist, having been a long-time member of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

The country's constitution stipulates parliament had to choose a new president within seven days so Win Myint was hotly tipped to become president after being made a vice-president last week. The election short-list comprised Myanmar's three vice presidents.

However, Khin Zaw Win, director of the Yangon-based Tampadipa Institute said Win Myint is a former political prisoner so his relationship toward the military might not be as harmonious as his predecessor's.

"The military might be a bit more mindful in dealing with the new president," Khin Zaw Win said.

Observers say Win Myint has been an advocate of the army withdrawing from areas where ethnic tensions are high to allow the rebuilding of trust, which could test the relationship between the NLD and the military.

Their view was dispelled by Pe Than, a lower house MP for the hard-line Buddhist Arakan National Party in restive Rakhine State, who said Win Myint's relationship with the military should hold little relevance with Suu Kyi calling the shots.

"Suu Kyi plays the key role in relations with the military and the new president will follow her lead for the sake of national reconciliation," Pe Than, ethnic Rakhine, told ucanews.com.

The country's de-facto leader, who remains hugely popular in Myanmar, is barred from becoming president under a military-drafted constitution, which excludes her because she was married to a foreigner.

However, she leads the country via the specially created role for her as state counselor and is also foreign minister.

The military, after having ruled the country with an iron fist for decades, still wields enormous power through its control of the defense, home affairs and border ministries and with a guaranteed 25 percent of the seats in the national parliament.

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