Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will not be president – at least, not for now.
That’s the message emanating from the National League for Democracy camp, with a senior party member telling The Myanmar Times yesterday she is resigned to installing a proxy in the position ahead of the handover of power from U Thein Sein’s administration.
While the party has given no indication of who the proxy may be, the senior official – who is close to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and spoke on condition of anonymity – said U Htin Kyaw and U Myo Aung were firming as the favourites for the president and vice president positions (see profiles below).
Meanwhile, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is considering taking the position of foreign minister, the source said. This would ensure she not only remains closely placed to the president but also can also participate in meetings of the 11-member National Defence and Security Council, which is controlled by the military.
The acknowledgement that there will be no immediate resolution to the constitutional block on her becoming president follows three meetings with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. With the military holding 25 percent of seats in parliament, he wields a veto over any proposed constitutional amendments.
The most recent meeting between the pair, on February 17, appeared particularly tense. Short statements released afterward suggested no major deals were reached.
Rumours had spread in recent weeks that the NLD would seek to amend section 59(f) of the constitution – which bars anyone with foreign children from being president – through a simple majority vote in parliament. Some party officials were said to be in favour, while Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was reportedly undecided.
But the military has made clear that it considers this unconstitutional. In a speech earlier this week at the staff college in Kalaw, Shan State, Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing said the military would consider amendments to the constitution submitted according to the legal procedure.
The senior NLD official said that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had decided against an urgent proposal to suspend the constitution – effectively conceding she will not lead the incoming administration as president – because it could lead to a damaging confrontation with the military. She has regularly stated that her priority is “national reconciliation”, and this has been reflected in moves to appoint non-NLD members as deputy speakers in parliament.
“They haven’t submitted anything yet, so it means that the party will likely cancel its plan and decide to nominate a proxy president,” the official said.
“The NLD will not choose a dangerous path that could lead to instability. That’s why Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said she will lead the country behind the scenes.”
Even with a proxy in place, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi still faces a difficult decision over what position to take.
If she is a member of the government, she will not be able to participate in party activities, according to section 64 of the constitution. This could present a challenge for the NLD, which is built around her leadership.
But the source said she would likely take a position in the government and senior official U Win Htein would likely be left in charge of the party.
“I cannot say definitely she will be foreign minister but it is the most likely outcome. If I look back, I can see that her plan was for U Win Htein not to contest again in the election. She will let him manage and control the party instead of her.”
Official NLD spokespersons refused to confirm the information yesterday. Asked whether Daw Aung San Suu Kyi would become president or foreign minister, U Nyan Win replied, “I do not know about this issue so I cannot give any information.”
The NLD has until March 17 to name its presidential nominees for the upper and lower houses of the national parliament. The military will also nominate one candidate. A vote will then be held, with the candidate receiving the most votes becoming president, and the runner-up vice president 1. The candidate with the least votes will be the junior vice president 2.
The two frontrunners are believed to be U Htin Kyaw and U Myo Aung.
“Either could be the president,” the senior official said. “But they will not serve the full term. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will become president within a period of time by negotiating with military chief [Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing],” he added.
NLD Pyithu Hluttaw representative U Myint Oo said he and other members of parliament want Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to become president. If that is not possible then they are ready to accept a proxy president selected by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, he added.
U Myint Oo said he does not know who the proxy candidates will be, as the topic is not discussed within the party, but he said U Htin Kyaw, U Myo Aung and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s doctor, Dr Tin Myo Win, were regularly mentioned.
Like his party’s official spokespersons, he would say little about the NLD’s plans.
“I don’t want to comment on them,” he said. “But they are all qualified enough to be president.”
U Htin Kyaw, 69
An Oxford graduate with a degree in economics, U Htin Kyaw is practically descended from NLD royalty. His father was the famous writer and poet Min Thu Wun, who won a seat in the 1990 election. His father-in-law, U Lwin, was a co-founder of the NLD and held the position of secretary and treasurer. Both have since passed away.
Born in 1946, U Htin Kyaw is a year younger than Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. He graduated from Yangon University of Economics in 1962 and received his degree from Oxford a decade later. He writes under the pen name Bala Dan.
He is married to Daw Su Su Lwin, daughter of U Lwin and a member of the Pyithu Hluttaw. In 2012, she won her father’s old constituency of Thongwa in a by-election, and was re-elected last year.
U Myo Aung, 65
After passing his matriculation exams in 1977, U Myo Aung attended the Institute of Medicine in Mandalay. From 1978 to 1980 he worked at cooperative clinics, while from 1985 to 1988 he served as an army doctor in the National Service Militia under the Ministry of Defence. He then worked in the Ministry of Health as an assistant medical officer but was suspended in 1991 and joined the NLD five years later. He has served two one-year prison terms for speaking out against the government.
In the 2012 by-election he won the Pyithu Hluttaw seat of Seikkan in Yangon Region. Last November he was re-elected to the Pyithu Hluttaw, winning the seat of East Dagon. After the election he was appointed to the NLD’s transition team, with U Win Htein and former Yangon University rector U Aung Thu.