Myanmar set to swear in first elected civilian president in decades

March 30, 2016 10:28 am
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Htin Kyaw, a trusted friend of the Nobel laureate, takes power from the outgoing quasi-civilian government led by former general Thein Sein/AFP
Htin Kyaw, a trusted friend of the Nobel laureate, takes power from the outgoing quasi-civilian government led by former general Thein Sein/AFP

, NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar, Mar 30 – Myanmar is set Wednesday to swear-in its first elected civilian president in generations, a role that will see him act as a proxy for pro-democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi and carry the hopes of a nation emerging from military rule.

Htin Kyaw, a trusted friend of the Nobel laureate, takes power from the outgoing quasi-civilian government led by former general Thein Sein.

Overview
  • Myanmar has witnessed a staggering political change shepherded by President Thein Sein.
  • Investors and tourists have begun to pile in as many of the junta's worst repressions have eased promising a better future to a public who now have access to mobile phones, cheaper cars and other coveted consumer goods.

The handover at the junta-built capital Naypyidaw will mark the final act of a prolonged transition since Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party cleaned up at a November election.

The Southeast Asian nation of 51 million people is in the throes of a dramatic transformation as it emerges from the shadow of the junta and opens its economy to the world.

Suu Kyi is barred from becoming president by the junta-scripted constitution but has declared that she will steer the government anyway, taking on cabinet positions including becoming the foreign minister.

Expectations for an NLD-dominated government run high, but the country’s new rulers face a steep task.

Civil wars continue to rage in ethnic minority borderlands, poverty is widespread and the military continues to hold huge political and economic powers.

“The country is ready and hungry for change,” political analyst Khin Zaw Win told AFP.

He said the party would be under pressure to quickly build on the reforms of the outgoing quasi-civilian government and not try to “start from scratch”, adding they should be able to achieve a lot before the next elections in 2020.

Myanmar has witnessed a staggering political change shepherded by President Thein Sein.

Investors and tourists have begun to pile in as many of the junta’s worst repressions have eased promising a better future to a public who now have access to mobile phones, cheaper cars and other coveted consumer goods.

A key challenge for Suu Kyi’s administration will be maintaining smooth relations with a military that locked her and many of her colleagues up for years under the junta.

The charter also ring fences a quarter of parliamentary seats to unelected soldiers and gives the army chief control over the home affairs, border and defence ministries and with it sweeping powers over the civil service.

The NLD has hit stumbling blocks even before taking office, with concerns raised over a cabinet line up in which Suu Kyi is the only woman and the members are all in their 60s or older, representing one the region’s youngest populations.

Suu Kyi is also rumoured to be taking on a seemingly gargantuan task of four ministerial posts — president’s office, energy, education and foreign affairs.

The minister widely expected to take the role of finance chief was also swept into a row last week when it was spotted that his officially released CV contained a fake PhD. He said he had been the victim of a scam.

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