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Myanmar Elects New President

Myanmar has elected its first civilian president in over fifty years, following a parliamentary vote that saw the chosen candidate of Aung San Suu Kyi secure the necessary support to take office.

Htin Kyaw, 69, was elected by the country’s parliament, winning 360 of the 752 votes available. The military candidate, Myint Swe, came second, which ensures he will become the vice-president. A third candidate, Henry Van Thio, a representative of the Chin minority, will also serve as vice-president.

Kyaw was hand-picked by Ms. Suu Kyi, who is barred from office due to her having foreign children, which is prohibited in the country’s army-drafted constitution and is seen by some as specifically designed to prevent her attaining the presidency. However, she has made clear that she considers herself “above the president” and it seems clear that Mr. Kyaw will serve as her proxy, with little real power of his own.

Mr. Kyaw has long campaigned for democracy in Burma, and served four months in prison for activities related to Ms. Suu Kyi’s house arrest in Yangon province. His senior vice-president, Mr. Swe, spent his entire career on the other side of the fence, holding a number of key positions under the military junta that ruled the country for so long; he is on a US State Department backlist for his role in the military government. Swe’s election shows the continuing power of the military, which retains the right to nominate a candidate for the presidency and continues to have its own people in key national security posts.

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