Htin Kyaw will serve as Myanmar's new president after votes were cast Tuesday, March 15, 2016.
Aung Shine Oo/AP
Htin Kyaw will serve as Myanmar's new president after votes were cast Tuesday, March 15, 2016.

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Ruling NLD party nominee Htin Kyaw to be Myanmar's new president

Historic elections in November ushered in new government, hope for change

(CNN) —  

Myanmar’s parliament, the Hluttaw, will soon choose a new president – only the most obvious candidate can’t even run.

It is widely expected that the new leader, who was elected to the position by 360 votes, more than a third of the parliament’s available 652 votes, will essentially act as a proxy for the majority National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is constitutionally barred from running for the county’s highest office.

Suu Kyi has previously said that, despite being barred from running, she will be “above the president.”

The two other candidates put forward, Khin Aung Myint and Henry Van Thio, by the army and the upper house, respectively, will act as first and second vice president. With 213 votes, Khin Aung Myint will be first vice president and Henry Van Thio, with 79, second vice president.

Myanmar’s ‘Lady’

Aung San Suu Kyi, who has led the majority National League for Democracy (NLD) for three decades, sometimes under house arrest, is barred from running for the country’s highest office, thanks to an clause in the constitution – drafted by the then-ruling military junta in 2008 – that many think were put in place specifically to bar her from office.

The constitution prevents anyone with children who are citizens of another country from becoming president. Both of Suu Kyi’s adult sons are British citizens.

Elected in her place is her close friend Htin Kyaw, who served as an executive officer for the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, a charitable organization named after Suu Kyi’s late mother. His father-in-law was also active in the establishment of the party.

The 69-year-old Htin Kyaw in one of Aung San Suu Kyi’s closest confidantes, and was one of a handful of people allowed to visit her while she was under house arrest. He also studied alongside her in England and was close to her husband.

Can Aung San Suu Kyi control Myanmar’s military?

Other candidates nominated

Both the Upper and Lower Houses of parliament, as well as the military, make nominations for vice-president, and one of the three will be picked as president. The remaining nominees both become vice-presidents.

While the NLD has an absolute majority in both houses of the parliament, the military holds 25% of the seats, limiting the power of the ruling party to make changes to the constitution.

Why U.S. should back change in Myanmar

Historic election

November’s election was historic, not least because it marked the first poll since 1990 that Suu Kyi’s party had contested, but also due to the size of the then-opposition NLD’s win.

The NLD was widely considered to have won the 1990 poll as well, but the military rulers annulled the results and placed Suu Kyi and many of her colleagues under arrest.

The daughter of Aung San, a military officer who became known as the founding father of independent Burma (now officially known as Myanmar), Suu Kyi spent much of the next two decades under house arrest, becoming an internationally recognized symbol of democracy and the country’s most popular politician.

The changes ushered in under President Thein Sein since 2011 have helped reduce the country’s international isolation, with Western sanctions being eased and foreign investment starting to ramp up.

Human rights groups have warned more recently of a rise in politically motivated arrests as well as discrimination directed against the Muslim minority, notably the stateless Rohingya population.

November’s elections were the first freely held in the nation in 25 years. Suu Kyi herself was reelected to her seat in the Kawhmu constituency in Yangon.