Htin Kyaw Wins Historic Presidential Vote in Myanmar Parliament

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (AP) -
Myanmar's newly elected president Htin Kyaw talks to a reporter as he leaves the parliament at Naypyitaw, Myanmar March 15, 2016. Myanmar's parliament elected a close friend and confidant of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi as president on Tuesday, making Htin Kyaw the first head of state who does not hail from a military background since the 1960s. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Myanmar’s newly elected president Htin Kyaw talks to a reporter as he leaves the parliament at Naypyitaw, Myanmar on Tuesday. (Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun)

Myanmar’s parliament elected Htin Kyaw as Myanmar’s new president Tuesday, a watershed moment that ushers the longtime opposition party of Aung San Suu Kyi into government.

The 70-year-old Htin Kyaw, a longtime confidant of Suu Kyi, will take office April 1 to become Myanmar’s first democratically elected leader after more than half a century of military rule.

Htin Kyaw secured 360 votes out of the 652 ballots cast in the bicameral parliament, where the vote count was read aloud and announced by a parliament official before a formal announcement.

“I hereby announce the president of Myanmar is Htin Kyaw, as he won the majority of votes,” said speaker Mann Win Khaing Than.

The military’s nominee, Myint Swe, won 213 votes and will become the first vice president. Htin Kyaw’s running mate from the National League for Democracy party, Henry Van Tio, won 79 votes and will take the post of second vice president.

A beaming Suu Kyi sat in the front row clapping as the chamber erupted in applause when the session ended. She smiled but did not comment as she exited, leaving the new president to deliver the first reaction.

“This is a victory for the people of this country,” Htin Kyaw said in a brief comment to reporters.

Suu Kyi led her National League for Democracy party to a sweeping victory in Nov. 8 elections, a reflection of the widespread public support she earned during her decades-long struggle for democracy in Myanmar which was ruled for half a century by a military junta.

The Nobel laureate and longtime political prisoner is the party’s unquestionable leader but is blocked from becoming president because of a constitutional clause that excludes anyone with a foreign spouse or children. Suu Kyi’s two sons are British, as was her late husband. The clause is widely seen as having been written by the military with Suu Kyi in mind.

To assume the top post in her place, the NLD nominated Suu Kyi’s trusted friend and adviser Htin Kyaw, the son of a national poet and son-in-law of a founding member of the country’s pro-democracy movement.

Myanmar’s electoral system requires that the president be chosen from candidates put forward by each of the two houses of parliament, and a third nominee from the military, which retains a quarter of the legislative seats.

Myint Swe is seen as a close ally of former junta leader Than Shwe and remains on a U.S. State Department blacklist that bars American companies from doing business with several tycoons and senior military figures connected with the former junta.