VP Nomination Delay Stirs Rumor Mill

By Nyein Nyein 31 July 2012

The long delay in appointing a new vice-president has caught the public interest in Burma, with speculation circulating that the matter is tied up in relation to a greater reshuffle of top ministers in Naypyidaw.

Previously, and most recently in 2011, the appointments of president and vice-presidents took only three days. Former Vice-President Tin Aung Myint Oo, a notorious hardliner, submitted his official resignation letter for health reasons to the president on July 1. It was accepted two days later. However, it was widely reported that Tin Aung Myint Oo had stopped working in the government back in May.

As per the Constitution, the military appointees in the parliament—who represent 25 percent of all seats— were then obligated to nominate a new vice-president, which they did: Rangoon Chief Minister Myint Swe who was nominated on July 10.

Since then it has emerged that ex-Gen. Myint Swe may be disqualified from assuming a vice-presidential position because one of his family members reportedly holds foreign citizenship, a contravention of the 2008 Constitution.

The military appointees told Burmese journalists on July 10 that they had already nominated Myint Swe for the VP position, but several ethnic and opposition MPs told The Irrawaddy that no name had officially been announced in Parliament.

Three weeks on and the parliamentary committee that oversees the nomination of vice-president has still not submitted a report about their findings to the Union parliament.

“The long delay could indicate that changes are imminent,” said Phone Myint Aung, an Upper House MP for Rangoon Region Constituency 3.

The apparent indecision is all the more rare because the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) members should be able to control the situation as they wish—again as per the Constitution.

Some MPs suggested that other forces must be in play. Various media have noted that the military nomination of Myint Swe may have been motivated due to his reputed closeness with former strongman Snr-Gen Than Shwe.

Ba Shein, the Lower House MP for the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, said that the Constitution does not state clearly what timeframe is mandatory for approving a vice-presidential nominee. It only states that the relevant MPs must nominate a vice-presidential candidate and submit his or her name to the parliamentary committee within seven days after notification of the resignation of the former VP, he said.

However, not all MPs shared in the conspiracy theory—several who spoke to The Irrawaddy said that the delay is down to the careful consideration that committee members put into the selection process.

Thein Nyint, the Lower House MP for the Rangoon’s Thingyangun constituency, said it takes time for the committee to work effectively and to thoroughly inspect the candidate’s qualifications.

Meanwhile, other names have been banded about in relation to the vacant VP seat: Chief Minister of Mandalay Division Ye Myint; Minister of Defense Lt-Gen Hla Htay Win; and Gen. Nyan Htun, the commander-in-chief of the navy.