YANGON, Myanmar: Myanmar’s parliament meets Thursday to put forward presidential candidates, some four months after Aung San Suu Kui’s National League for Democracy (NLD) swept landmark elections.
Under the country’s complex junta-drafted constitution, three names will be put forward but the NLD’s candidate will almost certainly be the winner.
Suu Kyi is barred from the presidency for having foreign-born children but has vowed to rule “above” a proxy leader.
Her party has remained tight-lipped on who she favours. But here are some figures that have emerged as contenders.
Htin Kyaw is often simply described as Suu Kyi’s personal driver. But in reality he is much more than that. A school friend, NLD veteran and one of Suu Kyi’s most trusted advisors he is seen as being unquestioningly loyal.
The genial 69-year-old commands wide respect among the establishment as the son of Min Thu Wun, a well-regarded writer and poet. He is also a senior executive in Suu Kyi’s charitable foundation while his wife is one of the NLD’s lawmakers.
Tin Myo Win
Suu Kyi’s charismatic family doctor was one of the few people allowed to see her during some 15 years she spent under house arrest during the junta era.
He heads the NLD National Health Network and remains a close confidant, even attending crucial talks with army chief Min Aung Hlaing alongside Suu Kyi.
But the 64-year-old lacks the military background that could endear him to the still-powerful army.
He also already has a day job as the chief surgeon of Yangon’s busy Muslim Free Hospital.
Tin Mar Aung
Suu Kyi’s personal assistant shares many traits with Tin Myo Win — she too is a trained doctor and close ally of the NLD leader.
Hailing from the Buddhist Rakhine minority, she has also been touted as a possible foreign minister — although others have suggested Suu Kyi herself may take that spot.
Among NLD insiders she is seen as having an abrupt manner with little of Tin Myo Win’s personal charisma. But that kind of toughness might be something Suu Kyi needs.
A general turned democracy activist, the patron of the NLD commands huge respect in Myanmar. He is a founding member of the pro-democracy party following mass protests in 1988 that ended in a bloody crackdown.
Having previously served as the com-mander of the army under the government of strongman Ne Win, he also has the “defence vision” qualification stipulated for the president in the constitution.
But the frail former political prisoner, who is nearly 90, has shown little public enthusiasm to lead the nation, telling the Irrawaddy news website last year: “I have never wanted to be president”.
A former junta general seen as the most reformist of his khaki-clad colleagues, he was purged from the army-backed party last year. Shwe Mann is the only non-NLD name doing the rounds.
A consumate political operator, the 69-year-old began nurturing a political alliance with Suu Kyi in recent years while they were both in parliament.
Observers have long-speculated that Shwe Mann could be a compromise candidate who could bridge the divide between Suu Kyi and the military that still stands in the way of full-scale democracy.
But a Shwe Mann presidency would probably outrage the NLD’s electoral base and seems unlikely to appease a military apparently displeased by his closeness to Suu Kyi.
With no clear frontrunner, spectators have begun scanning the stands.
The NLD’s wily spokesman Win Htein has seen his name raised, despite saying last year that he would not run for a parliamentary seat due to age and health problems.
Dr Mo Aung, an NLD veteran and central executive committee member, has also been touted, renowned both for his humility and behind the scenes politicking.