POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Feb 03, 2011
NAYPYITAW, Myanmar >> Myanmar’s new parliament met Thursday to elect two of the country’s three vice presidents, one of whom will become president and lead the new military-dominated government.
The army has held power in Myanmar since 1962 and is now essentially handpicking the country’s president. The military’s own delegates in parliament and their civilian allies hold an 80 percent majority in the new legislature, so the new leader is certain to be a top member of the outgoing junta.
The parliament on Tuesday selected five candidates, including two chosen by the lower house, two from the upper house and one by the military representatives of both houses. One-quarter of the seats in each chamber are reserved for military appointees.
On Thursday, the two houses will each pick one of the vice presidents from among their candidates, said Saw Thein Aung, one of the lower house nominees. It was not immediately clear if the military’s pick for a third vice president would also be announced Thursday.
The most prominent nominee among the five is Thein Sein, a general who served as prime minister in the outgoing ruling junta and also heads the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which won a huge majority in November’s general election.
Thein Sein’s seniority makes him the most likely pick for the top post. But no matter who fills the post, the longtime junta chief Senior Gen. Than Shwe is expected to remain a dominant force in the country.
Another leading candidate is a retired top military figure, Tin Aung Myint Oo, who was also a senior member of the junta.
One of the positions is reserved for an ethnic minority, an inclusion that is an important gesture because conflict with the country’s substantial ethnic groups who seek greater autonomy has long posed a threat to national stability.
There has been little popular interest in the opening of parliament, which occurred on Jan. 31, due to the widespread perception that the military cheated in November’s general election and has no true intention of paving the way for democracy.
The party of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, which won elections in 1990 that the junta refused to honor, boycotted the vote and is without representation in the new legislature.