Suu Kyi’s ex-driver nominated for Prez

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NAYPYIDAW: Htin Kyaw, a former driver for Aung San Suu Kyi and a close friend, was nominated to be Myanmar’s first civilian President in decades Thursday.

He will act as a proxy for Suu Kyi who is barred from the presidency by the military-drafted constitution because she has foreign-born children.

So what now for Suu Kyi and the impoverished but hopeful nation she plans to lead from behind the scenes?

What happens next?
Htin Kyaw has been nominated but still needs to be assessed for suitability by the same constitution that bars Suu Kyi and then voted into office by Myanmar’s two legislatures over the coming days.


Barring last minute upsets, that vote should be a forgone conclusion — both houses are comfortably dominated by Suu Kyi’s party.

He will take over from outgoing army-backed president Thein Sein on March 31. In the meantime, Suu Kyi will pick her cabinet and her government will start operating in earnest from early April.

How will Suu Kyi rule through a proxy?
Suu Kyi has yet to say. Some compare the situation to that of India’s Sonia Gandhi, who wielded huge influence over her Congress party’s administration despite having no official government role.

Another example is Singapore’s Lee Kwan Yew, who held an advisory position in the cabinet long after his official retirement.

Suu Kyi is expected to be president in all but name, possibly taking the foreign minister post, which would mean relinquishing her party position but on the other hand would give her a seat at the country’s military-dominated Security Council.

There are other pitfalls. The military may decide her proxy president goes against the constitution.

And a puppet leader may not be one hundred percent compliant — as Sonia Gandhi often discovered.

Is military might a thing of the past?
Far from it. It is difficult to overstate just how monumental both November’s polls and the so far peaceful transition of power are in a country battered by decades of corrupt and brutal junta rule.

But Myanmar’s military is far from a spent force because the constitution ensures it retains significant power.

A quarter of parliamentary seats are reserved for unelected soldiers, while the military will retain a vice president and control of three crucial ministries: home, defense and border affairs.

The generals also oversee the National Defense and Security Council, a body which can seize power in times of national emergency, and also runs two huge business conglomerates.

What are the new government’s priorities?
The NLD has provided few policy details beyond a broad campaigning slogan of “change”.

But the challenges are both numerous and complex.

Myanmar remains one of Asia’s poorest countries, blighted by cronyism, corruption and a woeful lack of investment during the junta years with education and health especially underfunded.

Many of its ethnic minority border regions are still wracked by insurgencies and Suu Kyi has said securing a country-wide peace deal will be a priority.

But it is unclear how much say the NLD will have on pushing a peace process that will require cooperation from the still-powerful army.

Sharing Myanmar’s natural resources more equitably and dealing with sectarian tensions are also major hurdles.

Will Suu Kyi ever be President?
Never say never. Suu Kyi has always maintained that she intends to overturn the ban. Doing that will be no small feat.

In the immediate months after the election she held meetings with Myanmar’s army chief to build trust.

But it soon became apparent those talks made little headway in changing the constitution before the presidential nominees were announced.

Constitutional changes need the approval of more than three quarters of both legislatures. But in a system where the military is guaranteed a quarter of parliamentary seats, they have a de facto veto.

Suu Kyi has said she needs “one brave soldier” to cross the aisle to her cause.

AFP

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1 Comment

  1. The Myanmar Constitution prohibits Suu Kyi from becoming President because her late husband was British, and her sons are British; i.e., foreign citizens. Would that were the case in the Philippines!

    The nominee for President did indeed serve as a driver, one of a handful, for Suu Kyi during her 15 year exile or house arrest in Myanmar. But it should also be mentioned that he used to be a university professor, and occupied posts in industry and Myanmar’s foreign ministry. He left his post in the Government when the military squeezed its hold on power even more.