Htin Kyaw, a close confidant of Myanmar’s Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, was chosen on Tuesday as the new president, the latest step towards democracy after decades of military rule. Htin Kyaw, 69, was elected president by parliament as the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party takes power on April 1.
Because Suu Kyi was married to a foreign national, she was constitutionally unable to become president, though she has stated she will be in charge of the government. Until last week, Htin Kyaw was hardly a household name and most people in Myanmar would not have seen him becoming president of the country’s first democratically elected government in more than a half-century. Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay said there was speculation that Suu Kyi may become Myanmar’s prime minister – a position that doesn’t currently exist – which would likely cause friction with the powerful military.
“As prime minister she would be able to travel the world and meet with world leaders, basically fulfil the role of being the president without actually having that title,” said Hay. Suu Kyi led the NLD to a landslide victory in the November 8 general elections after decades of often brutal rule by Myanmar’s generals.
Htin Kyaw gave up a career in the foreign ministry to help Aung San Suu Kyi, his childhood friend, with her political party. When Myanmar was under military rule, Htin Kyaw ended up in the junta’s prison along with other pro-democracy activists. Htin Kyaw is the son of a poet and the son-in-law of a founding member of the country’s pro-democracy movement. Suu Kyi nominated him “obviously to show that he is the most trusted person for her”, said Zaw Min, 48, a former NLD member.