RANGOON — As the National League for Democracy (NLD) continues to rack up seats in the Union Parliament following Burma’s general election on Sunday, the party has won the power to choose two of the country’s vice presidents, and increasingly looks likely to also pick the president if returns continue to trend heavily in its favor.
With the party’s share of seats growing each day this week, so too have prospects for Burma to see its first head of state credibly elected, albeit indirectly, in more than five decades.
Since a 1962 coup, the Southeast Asian country has not had a leader chosen by the people. Successive military regimes ruled Burma from 1962 until 2011, while incumbent President Thein Sein came to power following a rigged 2010 general election.
But on Thursday at noon, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD secured nominations to two vice presidential slots when official election tallies indicated that the party had won more than 50 percent of elected seats in both houses of the Union Parliament.
Constitutionally, the Lower and Upper chambers, along with 166 unelected military representatives who are split between the two houses, each nominate one presidential contender. An electoral college comprised of the full Union Parliament then votes on who among the trio of candidates will assume the presidency, with the runners-up taking their places as vice presidents.
As of Thursday noon, the NLD had won 95 seats in the Upper House and 196 in the Lower House, amounting to 57 percent of elected lawmakers in the upper chamber and 59 percent in the lower.
Suu Kyi told the BBC that the NLD would likely win about 75 percent of elected seats across the Union legislature.
If the NLD secures more than half of all Union Parliament seats, the party’s power to elect the president is assured, with no possible coalition of military MPs—who constitute a constitutionally guaranteed 25 percent bloc—and other winning parties being enough to stop it.
The party was 38 seats away from winning that supermajority of 329 seats across the two legislative chambers as of noon on Thursday.
The NLD’s plans vis-à-vis the presidency remain a mystery. Suu Kyi herself cannot be chosen because the Constitution bars anyone with a foreign spouse or children. The opposition leader has been asked on multiple occasions, but has declined to reveal who the party might choose.
She has made clear, however, that any government formed by the NLD would be led by her, regardless of who the president is.