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Suu Kyi Ally Is New President

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Naypyidaw – Myanmar’s parliament has elected a staunch ally of Aung San Suu Kyi as the country’s new president, allowing her to maintain a tight grip on top-level decision-making.

Win Myint, 66, had been tipped for the role after former president Htin Kyaw suddenly stepped down last week, citing the need for rest.

Suu Kyi is barred by the military-­drafted constitution from the presidency because she was married to a foreigner and has two sons who are British citizens.

She has instead served as state counsellor since her party’s landslide 2015 election victory, declaring she would work “above” the president. But her position has no official constitutional role.

“I hereby announce that U (honorific) Win Myint, who obtained the majority of votes, is elected as President of the State,” said parliament speaker Mann Win Khaing Than yesterday.

Win Myint, who resigned as Lower House speaker last week, swept up nearly two-thirds of the votes in a parliament dominated by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party.

He beat two opponents, including the military-backed acting president Myint Swe.

The former lawyer remains part of Suu Kyi’s inner circle – the pair fought side by side during the 1988 democracy movement that was violently quashed by the junta and saw Win Myint, alongside many others, being taken political prisoner.

As Myanmar emerged from outright military rule, Win Myint won his seat in the 2012 by-elections, the same vote that elevated Suu Kyi to parliament after a combined 15 years of house arrest.

She is still widely regarded as a heroine within Myanmar, even though her reputation lies shattered globally for failing to speak up on behalf of the country’s persecuted Rohingya Muslim community.

Her supporters say she has her hands tied by the military, which retains control over three key ministries – home affairs, borders and defence – and is guaranteed a quarter of the parliamentary seats.

As speaker he was known for his passion for protocol, famously dressing down members of parliament for failing to don the correct clothing.

His tenure was marked by “exerting strict control over the MPs”, said Khin Zaw Win, director of Yangon think tank The Tampadipa Institute.

Activists have been frustrated with his reluctance to abolish a controversial online defamation law that has seen dozens of people face charges for Facebook posts critical of the government or military.

Observers say his appointment is unlikely to change politics much, although he could assume some duties from Suu Kyi, who has been notoriously unwilling to delegate. – AFP



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