Myan­mar's new pres­i­dent vows eco­nomic re­forms

The Pak Banker - - MARKETS/SPORTS -

Myan­mar's par­lia­ment elected Htin Kyaw as the coun­try's new pres­i­dent Tues­day in a wa­ter­shed mo­ment that ush­ers the long­time op­po­si­tion party of Aung San Suu Kyi into govern­ment af­ter 54 years of di­rect or in­di­rect mil­i­tary rule.

The joint ses­sion of the two houses of par­lia­ment broke into thun­der­ing ap­plause as the speaker Mann Win Khaing Than an­nounced the re­sult: "I hereby an­nounce the pres­i­dent of Myan­mar is Htin Kyaw, as he won the ma­jor­ity of votes." Im­me­di­ately, the state-run Myan­mar TV's cam­era zoomed in from above on a beam­ing Suu Kyi, sit­ting in the front row, clap­ping ex­cit­edly, for a live na­tion­wide au­di­ence.

The 70-year-old Htin Kyaw, a long­time con­fi­dant of Suu Kyi, will take of­fice April 1 but ques­tions re­main about his po­si­tion and power. Right­fully, the job be­longed to Suu Kyi, who has been the face of the prodemoc­racy move­ment and who en­dured decades of house ar­rest and ha­rass­ment by mil­i­tary rulers with­out ever giv­ing up on her non-vi­o­lent cam­paign to un­seat them. But a con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sion barred Suu Kyi from be­com­ing pres­i­dent, and she made it clear that who­ever sits in that chair will be her proxy.

Still, Htin Kyaw will be re­mem­bered by his­tory as the first civil­ian pres­i­dent for Myan­mar and the head of its first govern­ment to be elected in free and fair polls. Af­ter the par­lia­ment ses­sion ended, Suu Kyi did not com­ment as she ex­ited, leav­ing the new pres­i­dent to de­liver the first re­ac­tion.

"This is a vic­tory for the peo­ple of this coun­try," Htin Kyaw said in a brief com­ment to re­porters. He se­cured 360 votes from among 652 bal­lots cast in the bi­cam­eral par- lia­ment, where the vote count was read aloud and an­nounced by a par­lia­ment of­fi­cial.

The mil­i­tary's nom­i­nee, Myint Swe, won 213 votes and will be­come the first vice pres­i­dent. Htin Kyaw's run­ning mate from the Na­tional League for Democ­racy party, Henry Van Tio, won 79 votes and will take the post of se­cond vice pres­i­dent.

"We are very sat­is­fied with the re­sult of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion," said Tun Win, a leg­is­la­tor from the Arakan Na­tional Party. "He re­ally should be the leader. I hope he can lead this coun­try to peace and sta­bil­ity, equal­ity and im­ple­ment the rule of law in this coun­try."

The NLD, and in­deed Suu Kyi, came into promi­nence in 1988 when pop­u­lar protests started against the mil­i­tary that had ruled in dif­fer­ent in­car­na­tions since tak­ing power in a 1962 coup. Af­ter crush­ing antigov­ern­ment ri­ots in which thou­sands of peo- ple were killed, the junta placed Suu Kyi un­der house ar­rest in 1989.

It called elec­tions in 1990, which the NLD swept. But the mil­i­tary ig­nored the re­sults and stayed in power. Suu Kyi was awarded the No­bel Peace Prize a year later, and it was around this time that Htin Kyaw - then a com­puter pro­gram­mer-turned­bu­reau­crat - be­came in­volved in party work. His father-in-law was al­ready a prom­i­nent NLD leader and his wife a mem­ber.

Htin Kyaw, who had known Suu Kyi since grade school, be­came her con­fi­dant and ad­viser on for­eign re­la­tions. As Myan­mar lurched from one political cri­sis to an­other, Suu Kyi was re­leased and re-ar­rested sev­eral times. The junta fi­nally started loos­en­ing its grip on power in 2010, al­low­ing elec­tions that were won by a mil­i­taryal­lied party af­ter the NLD boy­cotted the polls as un­fair.

Af­ter more re­forms, an­other gen­eral elec­tion was held on Nov. 8 that was swept by the NLD, a re­flec­tion of Suu Kyi's wide­spread pub­lic sup­port.

The con­sti­tu­tional clause that de­nied her the pres­i­dency ex­cludes any­one from the job who has a for­eign spouse or chil­dren. Suu Kyi's two sons are Bri­tish, as was her late hus­band. The clause is widely seen as hav­ing been writ­ten by the mil­i­tary with Suu Kyi in mind.

The mil­i­tary re­served for it­self 25 per­cent of the seats in par­lia­ment, en­sur­ing no govern­ment, cur­rent or fu­ture, can amend the con­sti­tu­tion with­out its ap­proval.

Myint Swe is seen as a close ally of for­mer junta leader Than Shwe and re­mains on a U.S. State Depart­ment black­list that bars Amer­i­can com­pa­nies from do­ing busi­ness with sev­eral ty­coons and se­nior mil­i­tary fig­ures con­nected with the for­mer junta.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.