By Timothy Mclaughlin and Hnin Yadana Zaw
NAYPYITAW, March 10 – Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD) has proposed a close friend of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi as its presidential candidate, ending a four-month wait for the identity of a president expected to rule in her name.
The NLD put forward Htin Kyaw, who joined the party just two months ago, as its lower house candidate. He runs a charity founded by Suu Kyi and has been close to her since the mid-1990s.
The wildly popular Suu Kyi and the NLD won a crushing electoral victory in November, but she is barred from holding the presidency under a junta-drafted 2008 constitution because her children are not Myanmar citizens.
Suu Kyi has said that she would run the country regardless through a proxy. Until Thursday, she and the NLD leadership had kept the identity of their nominee a closely guarded secret even from rank-and-file MPs.
In a statement on Thursday, before the nomination was revealed, Suu Kyi urged patience from her supporters.
“I would like to appeal for people to support and stand by the NLD with wisdom and far-sightedness,” she said. “The NLD is determined to meet people’s expectations and will do its best.”
The NLD’s huge parliamentary majority means the candidate it backs as president is almost certain to take the top job.
The NLD also nominated Henry Vantriu, a member of the Chin ethnic group who hail from Chin state in the country’s northwest bordering India and Bangladesh, as its presidential candidate for the upper house.
The NLD had been widely expected to name a candidate from an ethnic minority from the upper house who would become a vice president, in line with Suu Kyi’s goal of forming a government for national reconciliation.
Under Myanmar’s indirect system for electing a president, three candidates will be nominated – one by the lower house, one by the upper house, and one by the military bloc in parliament. The constitution gives the armed forces a quarter of seats in both houses.
Because the NLD has a comfortable majority in both chambers it effectively controls two of the nominations.
Local media have named Thet Swe, a former navy chief who stepped down last year to run in the election representing the far flung Coco Islands, as one of the possible nominees for the military. The armed forces bloc of MPs, who will make their nomination separately, were not present at the parliament building on Thursday morning.
The three nominees will be vetted by a parliamentary commission. After that, both houses of parliament will come together for a joint session to vote on the presidency, with the winner elected president and the two losing nominees becoming vice presidents.
The president picks the cabinet that will take over from President Thein Sein’s outgoing government on April 1, with the exception of the heads of the home, defence and border security ministries who will be appointed by the armed forces chief.
There was confusion among members of parliament over how soon the presidential vote would take place.
A director from the parliament told Reuters on Wednesday that the vote would not be held until at least Monday.