U Htin Kyaw: Myanmar, meet your new president

By SEAN GLEESON in YANGON
& MRATT KYAW THU in NAY PYI TAW

The wait is over. Barring a minor procedural matter, U Htin Kyaw will officially be the next president of Myanmar.

U Htin Kyaw was nominated by NLD MP Daw Khin San Hlaing (Pyithu, Palae) shortly after 10am, during Thursday morning’s Pyithu Hluttaw sitting in Nay Pyi Taw.

Born in Yangon, U Htin Kyaw, 69, is of Mon-Bamar heritage and one of the closest confidantes of National League for Democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, whom he regularly visited during her years of house arrest. The pair attended school together in Yangon.

Educated at the Yangon Institute of Economics and the University of London, U Htin Kyaw is a senior executive of the Daw Khin Kyi foundation, an education charity named for Suu Kyi’s mother. His late father U Min Thuwun was a successful candidate in the 1990 election, which was later nullified by the military junta. His wife, Daw Su Su Lwin, is an MP in the Pyithu Hluttaw representing Yangon’s Thongwa Township.

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Ethnic Chin National League for Democracy lawmaker U Henry Van Thio (Amyotha, Chin-3), has been nominated by NLD members in the Upper House to be that chamber’s candidate for vice-president. The 58-year-old Christian MP, who studied at Yangon and Mandalay University, is also a retired army officer.  

Political analyst U Khin Zaw Win, director of the Tampadipa Institute, told Frontier the choice of Henry Van Thio was unexpected. 

“The Chin candidate is a surprise but it’s meant to [please] the ethnic nationalities I would say,” he said.

Earlier, Sai Nyunt Lwin of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy had been rumoured to take the Upper House’s nomination. Sai Nyunt Lwin was not nominated either by the NLD or the SNLD on Thursday morning, leaving open the possibility he will take a senior role in the next Union government or the Shan State chief ministry. 

Under the terms of the military-drafted 2008 Consitution, the Pyithu and Amyotha hluttaws each choose one vice-presidential candidate, while military MPs, allocated 25 percent of seats in both houses of parliament, caucus separately to select their own nominee.

Section 59(f) disqualifies presidential candidates from nomination if any of their immediate families are foreign nationals. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from contesting the presidency because her two sons are British citizens, but said shortly before last year’s elections that she would “rule above” the next president, effectively relegating the next head-of-state to a proxy role. She is rumoured to be considering taking the office of Foreign Minister, which would allow her to sit on the 11-member National Defence and Security Council. 

A joint sitting of parliament then votes on the three successful vice-presidential candidates. The candidate with the highest vote assumes the office of the presidency. Vice-presidential candidates will be decided today, with a vote on which of the three becomes president to be held next Monday at the earliest.

Before then, a parliamentary committee will determine whether the candidates are eligible to contest the presidency under the provisions of the Constitution. U Myo Aung, another NLD stalwart who was among the names floated for the presidency, will sit on the committee after his nomination by the NLD on Thursday morning. 

Earlier on Thursday morning, USDP lawmakers in the Amyotha Hluttaw nominated former Upper House speaker U Khin Aung Myint (Amyotha, Mandalay-8) as vice-presidential candidate, while their Pyithu counterparts nominated Dr Sai Mauk Kham (Pyithu, Lashio).

Dr Sai Mauk Kham, one of two outgoing vice-presidents, successfully contested the seat of Lashio in the November 2015 election.

Dr Sai Mauk Kham was absent from Thursday morning’s parliamentary session, along with fellow outgoing vice-president U Nyan Tun, who successfully contested the Bago Region Pyithu seat of Zigon in last year’s election.

Parliament came to a close shortly before 11am on Thursday. The military, which caucused outside of the parliamentary chambers, has yet to reveal its nominee for vice-president, and is expected to do so on Friday at the earliest. 

U Htin Kyaw: Career highlights

The following information comes from a biography published by the NLD:

1962-63 & 1966-67: Bachelor of Economics student at Yangon University 
1968: Masters of Economics student at Yangon University (while also working as a lecturer on campus) 
1971-72: Student at Institute of Computer Science, University of London
1974-75: Masters of Computer Science (Yangon University)
1980-92: Employee of Foreign Economic Relations Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
1987: Studied at Arthur D. Little School of Management in Cambridge, Massachusetts
1992: Resigns as department’s deputy director
1992-Present: Founding executive committee member of the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation

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