Myanmar's Suu Kyi names former general to head key advisory panel

Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party on Friday nominated Shwe Mann, one of the country's most powerful politicians, to head a prominent legal advisory panel, as the freshly-elected parliament prepares to choose a new president.

Shwe Mann, the No.3 in the junta that ran Myanmar for half a century before giving way to a semi-civilian government in 2011, grew closer to Suu Kyi in the legislature's last term, becoming a key adviser since her massive election win in November.

The elections, in which Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won 80 per cent of the elected seats, kicked off a lengthy transition that will end on April 1, when the new government officially begins its term.

The NLD-dominated parliament started its term this week. The appointment of Shwe Mann, a former speaker of parliament, will allow Suu Kyi to draw on his deep understanding of the army and the outgoing government to boost her firepower in the assembly.

Shwe Mann, who lost to an NLD candidate in last year's elections and is not a member of parliament, will lead a panel on legal affairs consisting MPs, technocrats and members of the military, who advise on legislation. "Its duty is giving advice to the parliament, through the speaker, on legal and special matters," said prominent writer and political analyst Pe Myint.

Parliament television broadcast live images of the vote on the appointment.

The panel, formally known as the Legal Affairs and Examination of Special Matters Commission, is one Shwe Mann himself set up in 2011, to tackle parliament's lack of resources.

It contributed to getting 149 laws approved, state media have said, before its term ran out in January.

Shwe Mann's continued presence in parliament could be vital for Suu Kyi in the next two months as the chamber decides who will run the country.

The parliament is divided between the NLD majority and the military, which is guaranteed a quarter of the seats under the junta-drafted constitution.

The constitution is the bone of contention between the army and the NLD, as it bars Suu Kyi from becoming president because her children are foreign citizens.

The NLD leader has vowed to defy the constitution and lead the government from "above the president".

Suu Kyi's party has held transition talks with the military, but has not revealed its presidential candidate.

It is unclear whether a constitutional amendment that would allow Suu Kyi to become the president, but which is vehemently opposed by the military, is also on the negotiating table.

The 2008 charter forces the NLD and the army to essentially share power, by giving the army control over three security ministries that dominate much of the administration.