NAYPYIDAW / RANGOON — The National League for Democracy (NLD) has selected Htin Kyaw and Henry Van Thio as its nominees for the presidency, significantly narrowing the scope for speculation over whom the party will choose as its proxy for popular leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
While their nominations do not yet officially reveal who will ultimately assume the post, Thursday’s announcement would appear to make a Htin Kyaw presidency all but assured.
Believed to be one of Suu Kyi’s right-hand men, the ethnic Bamar-Mon Htin Kyaw had been tipped ahead of Thursday’s nomination as a likely contender for Burma’s highest civilian office. He holds high standing among NLD members and his father-in-law, U Lwin, is one of the party’s founding members.
His wife, Su Su Lwin, is a newly minted Lower House NLD lawmaker recently appointed as the chairperson for the chamber’s International Relations Committee.
More of a mystery—at least for now—is Henry Van Thio. An ethnic Chin elected to the Upper House in Chin State’s Thantlang Township last year, the 58-year-old is a retired army major who has studied geography and law.
“I believe my nomination for the vice presidency reflects [the party’s] highlighting of ethnic issues and I will try my best for it,” he told the media at the Upper House after his nomination on Thursday morning.
If the two men are deemed to have met presidential eligibility criteria, they will be put to a vote, along with a vice presidential nominee from the military, with the winner assuming the presidency and the runners-up becoming vice presidents.
Of less significance on Thursday, Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) lawmakers in the Lower and Upper houses put forward the names of current Vice President Sai Mauk Kham and former Upper House Speaker Khin Aung Myint as its proposed candidates for the respective chambers.
Sai Mauk Kham presently holds dual public offices, after also winning a seat in Parliament in Burma’s November general election. But both he and Khin Aung Myint would need NLD or military support to have a shot at a vice presidential post, an unlikely prospect.
Sources in Naypyidaw said the military was likely to put forward its vice presidential nominee on Friday.
Suu Kyi, who is barred from the presidency by Burma’s military-drafted Constitution, has said she would lead the nation from a position “above” the president, who would be expected to carry out the NLD chairwoman’s wishes if given her blessing.