Speculation grows over military’s vice-presidential nominee

The decision to push back the election of the country’s next head of state until March 17 has focused interest on the Tatmadaw’s likely candidate.

By SOE THAN LYNN | FRONTIER

The decision by the National League for Democracy to delay the election by parliament of the country’s next president until March 17 has generated intense interest in the likely military nominees for the role.

The delay follows indications of sharp divisions in negotiations over the issue between the NLD and the Tatmadaw.

The president is chosen by the Union Parliament sitting as an electoral college to choose from vice-presidential candidates nominated by the Amyotha and Pyithu hluttaws and the unelected military bloc.

The candidate with the most votes becomes president and the other two nominees become vice presidents.

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“It is like a game of cards, difficult to guess, but the Commander-in-Chief might have three or four candidates in mind,” said former Tatmadaw officer U Toe Naing Mann, a member of the first Pyithu Hluttaw commission for assessing legal affairs and special cases, referring to Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

“If it was to be a political choice, rather than made in the country’s interest, it will be a biddable, moderate person who is prepared to acquiesce to the Commander-in-Chief,” U Toe Naing Mann, who is also the son of former Parliament Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann, told Frontier.

“In the present political situation, it’s my guess that the Commander-in-Chief would choose some younger than himself who will always give priority to his policies,” he added.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is said to nearing the mandatory retirement age for officers of 60, though reports have circulated that his term may be extended for another five years. However, a member of his family has said his term will be extended for at least one more year. Some sources say that the reported move to extend Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s service is the result of a compromise in the negotiations between NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the powerful Commander-in-Chief.

A Tatmadaw officer who asked not to be named said it was unlikely that Senior General Min Aung Hlaing himself would be proposed as a vice-presidential nominee. “He has no hope of becoming the president and I think he would rather continue serving as Commander-in-Chief rather than as a vice-president,” he told Frontier.

Vice-President U Nyan Tun, a member of the Union Solidarity and Development Party who was elected to the Pyithu Hluttaw last November, is almost certain to be among the military’s nominees, sources said.

The former Navy Commander-in-Chief was appointed Vice-President in August 2012 to replace Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo who resigned for personal reasons.

U Nyan Tun is one year older than Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and is widely regarded as a hardliner, raising questions about whether it would be easy for him to achieve a harmonious relationship with an NLD government.

Other likely military nominees are the former Defence Minister, U Wai Lwin, a defeated USDP candidate in last year’s election, as well as former general U Hla Htay Win, and former Navy Chief-of-Staff U Thura Thet Swe, both of whom stood successfully for the USDP in 2015.

Of the three, only U Thura Thet Swe is younger than Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

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