Myanmar Parliament Elects Aung San Suu Kyi Aide as President

Myanmar's new president Htin Kyaw speaks to a reporter.
Htin Kyaw talks to a reporter in Napyitaw, Myanmar, March 15. Kyaw, a close aide of Aung San Suu Kyi, has been elected as Myanmar's new president. Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

Myanmar's parliament has elected a close aide of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi as the country's first civilian president after half a century of military rule.

Htin Kyaw - a member of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) - won 360 of the 652 votes cast. He will replace Thein Sein of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) at the end of March. Military-nominated Myint Swe came second with 213 votes and another NLD candidate, Henry Van Thio, was third with 79 votes. Swe and Thio will serve as first and second vice-presidents respectively.

The NLD secured a 'supermajority' in both houses of the Myanmar parliament during historic elections held in November 2015, which were lauded as the first free elections in the country for 25 years. Kyaw, 70, attended university in the U.K. and has served as Suu Kyi's driver and close confidante.

Suu Kyi, who was held under house arrest for 15 years for trying to introduce democracy to Myanmar, is constitutionally barred from holding the post of president—Myanmar's constitution forbids anyone whose children have another nationality from becoming president, and Suu Kyi's children hold British passports. The 70 year-old NLD leader, however, has said she will run the country with the president serving as a proxy.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, was ruled by a strict military junta between 1962 and 2011 that repressed almost all forms of political dissent. The NLD won a landslide victory in the 1990 election, but the result was ignored by the military and Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest following the result.