With Suu Kyi banned, Myan­mar vot­ers pon­der ‘proxy pres­i­dents’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

YAN­GON: In a ram­shackle hospi­tal in Myan­mar’s largest city, at the end of a cor­ri­dor milling with pa­tients, sits the man some peo­ple be­lieve will be the coun­try’s next pres­i­dent. Tin Myo Win is the long-time per­sonal physi­cian of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party is ex­pected to win Sun­day’s land­mark gen­eral elec­tion. That po­si­tion has earned him a place on a list of pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, some of them im­prob­a­ble.

Even if her Na­tional League for Democ­racy (NLD) wins big, Suu Kyi is barred from the pres­i­dency by a con­sti­tu­tion writ­ten by Myan­mar’s pow­er­ful mil­i­tary. It ruled the coun­try for nearly 50 years be­fore a nom­i­nally civil­ian gov­ern­ment ush­ered in an era of fal­ter­ing re­form in 2011.

Suu Kyi vowed on Thurs­day to run the coun­try from “above the pres­i­dent”, fill­ing the po­si­tion with a proxy she has cho­sen but not dis­closed, a move that could an­tag­o­nize the mil­i­tary. It has also left Myan­mar’s vot­ers with a pres­i­den­tial puz­zle: If not “Mother Suu”, as she is af­fec­tion­ately known, then who? An NLD loy­al­ist and former po­lit­i­cal pris­oner, Tin Myo Win, 64, was one of the few peo­ple al­lowed to visit the No­bel Peace Prize win­ner dur­ing her 15 years as a pris­oner of the mil­i­tary.

He seemed be­mused at the prospect of be­ing con­sid­ered pres­i­dent. “My job is cut­ting and sewing - I am a sur­geon,” he told Reuters be­tween con­sul­ta­tions with pa­tients at Yan­gon’s Mus­lim Free Hospi­tal, where he vol­un­teers his ser­vices. But ear­lier he told the Irrawaddy, a Myan­mar news ser­vice, that he would ac­cept any of­fer of the pres­i­dency “for the good of the coun­try.” Myan­mar’s le­gions of Face­book users have al­ready en­ter­tained and dis­missed the pos­si­bil­ity of Tin Myo Win be­com­ing pres­i­dent.

A more likely choice could be former gen­eral Shwe Mann, now the speaker of the lower house, or the party’s ageing pa­tron, Tin Oo.

“SOME­THING LIKE SO­NIA GANDHI”

Even if Sun­day’s elec­tion is deemed free and fair, it will still only elect 75 per­cent of Myan­mar’s par­lia­ment, where a quar­ter of all seats are re­served for un­elected mil­i­tary of­fi­cers. On the eve of the elec­tion, it is still un­clear whether the NLD can win enough votes to form a gov­ern­ment and choose its own pres­i­dent, who does not have to be an elected MP. To get there, the NLD on its own or with al­lies must win more than two-thirds of all con­tested seats.

The mil­i­tary-drafted con­sti­tu­tion bars pres­i­den­tial and vice-pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates with for­eign chil­dren. Suu Kyi’s two sons are Bri­tish cit­i­zens. She said on Thurs­day that the con­sti­tu­tion “says noth­ing about some­body be­ing above the pres­i­dent”.

In fact, it does state that the pres­i­dent “takes prece­dence over all other per­sons” in Myan­mar.

But Suu Kyi could be “some­thing like So­nia Gandhi,” said Win Htein, a top NLD leader and Suu Kyi con­fi­dant. Gandhi is the Ital­ian-born widow of the late prime min­is­ter Ra­jiv Gandhi. As leader of the Congress party, she dom­i­nated the gov­ern­ment of former Prime Min­is­ter Mah­mo­han Singh be­fore it fell from power last year. “We’ll ap­point some­one (as pres­i­dent) but he will be con­trolled by Aung San Suu Kyi,” said Win Htein. —Reuters

SRI NA­GAR: Kash­miri sup­port­ers lis­ten to In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi dur­ing a pub­lic rally in Srinagar, In­dian con­trolled Kash­mir yes­ter­day. —AP

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