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President Thein Sein steps down

March 31, 2016 - MYANMAR

Former military ruler Thein Sein is due to step down as president, and President-elect Htin Kyaw will take over. It appears that the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Aung San Suu Kyi, will be running the country from behind the scenes.

As it stands, the junta-drafted constitution bars Suu Kyi from the presidency because she married and had children with a foreigner. Negotiations with the authorities raised the the possibility that the constitutional barriers to her direct presidency might be suspended. The President-elect is regarded as her proxy, and has started the handover by nominating her for a cabinet position.

Despite the political reforms enacted by the quasi-civilian government that has ruled the country since the end of military rule in 2011, the army holds huge political and economic sway. In talks with the army chief about the selection - or possibly her direct presidency - the Nobel laureate had to tread carefully. She was held under house arrest for some 15 years during the junta era. She and her party are aware that new freedoms can be withdrawn. The first time the NLD won a general election, the army refused to accept the result.

Thein Sein's government introduced major political and economic reforms that culminated in the November poll. The French newswire AFP notes that since her election victory, Suu Kyi has reached out to the army, urging her supporters to seek reconciliation rather than revenge after the brutal junta years.

Thein Sein hails democratic transition (AFP/Taipei Times 29 Jan 2016)

Who will be Myanmar's new president? (BBC 1 Dec 2015)

Aung San Suu Kyi's party to take up seats in Myanmar's parliament on February 1 (ABC 6 Jan 2016)

Aung San Suu Kyi could become Myanmar president after 'positive' talks - reports (Guardian 6 Feb 2016)

Name of Myanmar's Next President to Be Known March 17 (AP/ABC 8 Feb 2016)

Date written/update: 2016-03-22