Myanmar presidential nominees to be named March 17

Myanmar presidential nominees to be named March 17
Myanmar's National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi talks to journalists during her meeting with the media in her office at the parliament in Naypyitaw
PHOTO: Reuters

Naypyidaw, Myanmar - Myanmar will not discover who its new president will be until at least mid-March, an official said Monday, as speculation swirls over who will serve as proxy for democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The cut off point for presidential candidate proposals will be March 17, Win Khaing Than, the speaker of Myanmar's combined houses of parliament told lawmakers Monday.

That means voters will have waited more than four months to discover who the new president will be after they delivered a thumping victory for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party in landmark November polls.

Suu Kyi is currently barred from top political office by a junta-era constitution because her children and spouse were foreign born.

The announcement prolongs anxiety over who will take over the presidency from outgoing general-turned-reformer Thein Sein at the end of March, as Myanmar looks to shrug off decades of military domination.

Suu Kyi has insisted her party's sweeping victory gives her a mandate to rule "above" the next president.

She has yet to indicate her choice of proxy leader.

Observers see her reticence to name a candidate as a sign that she and senior NLD figures are locked in negotiations with the military to cut some sort of deal that might allow her to rule.

Myanmar's army has an effective veto on any constitutional change and has publicly rebuffed all attempts at its alteration.

"(The military) will never change their position," information minister Ye Htut told AFP.

The former army officer, who is the spokesman for the outgoing quasi-civilian government, said the army will adhere closely to the constitution.

Three presidential candidates will be nominated, one by each of the lower and upper chambers and one from the army, which retains 25 percent of parliament's seats.

The new president will then be chosen by a vote of the combined houses, which are dominated by an overall NLD majority.

Suu Kyi last week said it was "not yet time to form a government", urging people not to be "anxious".

The Nobel laureate, 70, met army chief Min Aung Hlaing days before her party took up its parliamentary majority on February 1 to discuss the transition.

As fevered speculation takes hold, broadcasts in state-backed media over the weekend appeared to suggest a breakthrough in talks, only to correct the report on Monday saying it reflected the personal views of some MPs.

Voters are keenly aware that in 1990 Myanmar's military simply ignored a landslide electoral victory by the NLD, ushering in a renewed and particularly brutal period of rule that lasted more than two decades.

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