Presidential vote set for March 17

Feverish speculation as to who will be Myanmar’s next president looks set to continue, after parliament said that presidential nominees will not be announced until March 17.

Amyotha Hluttaw speaker U Man Win Khin Than told parliament on February 8 that the three nominees will be made after three parliamentary committees have been formed, one each from the lower and upper houses, as well as one from army representatives.

Each committee will nominate a presidential candidate, which will be followed by a collective vote by all houses to select the president. The other two candidates will become vice presidents. With the National League for Democracy winning 79 percent of elected seats in November’s general election, it effectively has the power to select the next president, despite the military holding 25 percent of all parliamentary seats.

NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had fuelled feverish speculation last week over a constitutional compromise to install her as president when she hinted that it may take time for her party to finalise its presidential nominations.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi made the comment in Nay Pyi Taw at a rare sit-down meeting with Myanmar and foreign reporters on February 3.

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She chided the reporters at the evening meeting for repeatedly asking about the NLD’s presidential nominations since last November’s election, saying she was aware of many unfounded and incorrect reports about the party’s intentions.

“The time allowed is until March. So, please don’t make haste, I’ll announce it in due course,” she told the 26 reporters.

U Thein Sein will remain president until the end of March.

Since the election, many NLD sources have floated the idea of “suspending” section 59(f) of the constitution to enable the party’s leader to become president.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is ineligible for the presidency under 59(f) because it prohibits a Myanmar with foreign family members from becoming head of state and her two sons are British.

NLD co-founder and patron U Tin Oo, 88, rebuffed suggestions last week he would be nominated for the presidency, telling the Myanmar Times he wanted Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to become president.

Amending 59(f) would require the support of the appointed military MPs who hold 25 percent of the seats. They have an effective veto over constitutional change because amendments need the support of more than 75 percent of MPs.

The military-run newspaper Myawaddy said in an editorial on February 2 that 59(f) should never be amended.

At the February 3 meeting, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi expressed satisfaction with the appointment of the party’s nominees as Union parliament speakers and deputy speakers, saying the lack of opposition objections reflected a spirit of cooperation in the new parliament with its NLD majority.

The successful nomination of U T. Khun Myat, a Union Solidarity and Development Party MP and former chairman of the Lower House Bill Committee, was marred by controversy over a 2011 report accusing him of involvement in the drug trade during his time as head of the Kutkai militia in Shan State. He has denied the allegations.

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