Myanmar Parliament begins choosing government

Myanmar`s first Parliament in more than two decades nominated five vice-presidential candidates Tuesday, one of whom will become president and lead the new military-dominated government.

Last Updated: Feb 01, 2011, 15:48 PM IST

Naypyitaw: Myanmar`s first Parliament in more than two decades nominated five vice-presidential candidates Tuesday, one of whom will become president and lead the new military-dominated government.

The Army has held power in Myanmar since 1962 and thanks to an 80 percent majority it holds with its proxies in the new legislature it is certain the president will be a top member of the outgoing junta.

The most prominent nominee vying for the three vice president`s seats is Thein Sein, who served as prime minister in the outgoing junta and also heads the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which won a huge majority in last November`s General Election.

Parliament is now adjourned until Thursday while the speakers and their deputies from the Lower and Upper Houses scrutinize the candidates` qualifications to become president. The 2008 Constitution drafted under the junta`s guidance says the president shall be acquainted with political, administrative, economic and military affairs.

Thein Sein`s seniority makes him the most likely pick.

The selection of the president is the last step in the junta`s so-called road map to democracy. It has manipulated the process to ensure that the military will continue to have a dominant role in running the country.

Although there appears to be little popular interest in Parliament`s opening — the widespread perception that the military cheated in last November`s election dashed many hopes for true change — the general public is curious as to who may become head of state.

"I am not interested in the opening of Parliament but I am a little curious to know who will be the country`s first president. It could be one of the military leaders, but I am still curious if it will be Senior Gen Than Shwe or Prime Minister Thein Sein," said a worker at a hotel in Naypyitaw. He spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid unwanted official attention for speaking to a journalist.

Than Shwe is the head of the junta and no matter who becomes president he is expected to remain a dominant force in the country.

The 440-seat Lower House and 224-seat Upper House opened Monday, and their first order of business was to elect legislative officers.

Thura Shwe Mann, who had been the junta`s third-ranking member before retiring from the military to run for election with the USDP, was picked to be speaker of the Lower House. Khin Aung Myint, the junta`s culture minister, was named speaker of the Upper House.

The military has been in power since a 1962 coup deposed the last legitimately elected legislature. A single-party Parliament under the late dictator Gen Ne Win was abolished in 1988 after the Army crushed a pro-democracy uprising.

The party of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, which won elections in 1990 that the junta refused to honor, boycotted last November`s vote and is without representation in the new legislature.

Bureau Report