NLD poised to take Myanmar reins but who will be president?

National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
PHOTO: Reuters

Suu Kyi's party set to fill most seats in new parliament; no sign of deal on top post yet.

AUNG San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) will today take control of parliament as it convenes to oversee the transition from a military-backed regime to an elected government, amid speculation that a key article in Myanmar's controversial constitution will be suspended to pave the way for her to take the post of president.

Despite NLD's overwhelming victory in the November 8 election and the military's consent for a smooth hand over of power it remained unclear who would be president given the Nobel laureate is prohibited from taking the top job under the constitution.

Unless Article 59 (f) is suspended - as widely suggested - to pave the way for Suu Kyi to take the job immediately after the end of President Thein Sein's term, the other way to fulfil the people's desire for her to run the country is to amend the 2008 charter to allow a person who has a foreign spouse or children who are foreign citizens to take the helm.

The NLD which won about 80 per cent of elected seats in the parliament has enough support to vote for suspension of the article or push for a constitutional amendment. But that would not succeed without consent of the military, which holds 25 per cent of total seats in the lower and upper houses of Parliament.

Suu Kyi has had two meetings with Army commander-in-chief General Min Aung Hlaing since the election, which suggests that the elected political leader and the Tatmadaw chief can come to terms with a compromise.

However, a senior party official said it seems that NLD heads will not push for an immediate amendment of the charter to make Suu Kyi the country's top leader on day one.

Unless the article is suspended, those qualified to be president and vice presidents of Myanmar could be people from the NLD, as the election winner, the military - as the real power holder - and ethnic groups, as a key component in state-building.

The previous leadership in Myanmar was arranged in this way with President Thein Sein representing the winning Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), Vice President Sai Mauk Kham, who is of Shan ethnicity, representing ethnic groups and Vice President Nyan Tun, a former navy chief representing the military. The process to become president of Myanmar is a bit complicated. The charter requires that parliamentarians who represent states/regions, townships and population as well as the military's representatives in two houses to form a Presidential Electoral College. Groups in the college will pick three people from members or non-members of the parliament to be vice presidents. The parliament - the two houses combined - will later pick one of the three vice presidents to be president while other two automatically become vice presidents.

The NLD, which dominates the new lower and upper houses, could propose constitutional qualified people to be vice presidents and the military MPs could propose nominees also.

There has been no clear indication on the person Suu Kyi has in mind to take the top job. NLD co-founder Tin Oo, who has fought together with the party since 1988, and Daw Suu's charismatic family doctor Tin Myo Win could be candidates as the NLD president. However, both showed little enthusiasm to take the job, so speculation is likely to continue to what happens next.

The convening of parliament this week will see the selection of a speaker, before the focus turns to the election of the president.

The NLD has proposed Win Myint as Lower House Speaker, with T Khun Myat as Deputy Lower House Speaker, Mahn Win Khaing Than as Upper House Speaker and Aye Thar Aung as Deputy Upper House Speaker, according to Win Htein, a member of the NLD's central executive committee, who was quoted by Myanmar Eleven last week.

Win Myint and Mahn Win Khaing Than are from the NLD, while T Khun Myat is from the USDP and Aye Thar Aung is from the Arakan National Party, he said.

Outgoing President Thein Sein guaranteed during his farewell speech last week that the transition of power would go smoothly. If so, this will be the first time in Myanmar's recent history when ballots - not bullets - have brought a change in political leaders.