YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar’s parliament took a first step Friday in selecting a replacement for President Htin Kyaw, who retired this week with ill health, by filling the empty seat of one of the country’s three vice presidents.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party used its majority in the lower house to elect Win Myint as the new vice president, joining the two existing vice presidents selected two years ago by the upper house and the military, respectively. One of the vice presidents gets to serve as president, and Win Myint’s selection next week by the combined houses of parliament is virtually assured.
Win Myint, like Htin Kyaw, is expected to serve as a figurehead president, ceding his authority to Suu Kyi in her specially created post of state counsellor. Suu Kyi became Myanmar’s de facto leader in 2016 as state counsellor because she is constitutionally banned from the presidency. A clause in the charter bars anyone with a foreign spouse or child from holding the job. Suu Kyi’s two sons are British, as was her late husband.
Win Myint, 66, is a longtime member of Suu Kyi’s party and a former political prisoner. He was a successful parliamentary candidate in the 1990 general election that was invalidated by the military, denying him his seat, but then was elected in the next polls contested by the NLD, the 2012 by-elections.
In Friday’s voting, he handily defeated Thaung Aye, a candidate nominated by the pro-military United Solidarity and Development Party, the second biggest grouping in the lower house with 30 seats compared to the NLD’s 255.
Win Myint resigned as speaker of the lower house after Htin Kyaw’s retirement in order to take his place.
The new house speaker elected this week is T Khun Myat, an independent lawmaker previously with the United Solidarity and Development Party who is more likely than his predecessor to assert the legislature’s authority in relation to the executive branch.