Suu Kyi’s aide nominated as Myanmar presidential candidate

YPYIDAW – Aung San Suu Kyi was on Thursday finally ruled out of the running to become Myanmar’s next president, as her party nominated one of her most loyal aides to rule the formerly junta-run nation as her proxy.

Suu Kyi has vowed to rule “above” the president, despite being barred from top office by the army-scripted constitution, as she strives to fulfill the huge mandate delivered by millions of voters in her National League for Democracy (NLD)’s landslide election victory in November.

Many in Myanmar had clung to faint hopes that the 70-year-old democracy campaigner could still be named president, but months of talks with the powerful military failed to remove the legal obstacles in her way.

At a parliamentary session in Naypyidaw Htin Kyaw, a genial 69-year-old economics graduate who now helps run Suu Kyi’s charitable foundation and once acted as her driver, was named as one of the party’s two presidential candidates, and is widely seen as the anointed person to rule in her place.

His nomination was warmly received by observers and comes after months of fevered speculation. Myanmar historian and political analyst Thant Myint-U said he was a “stellar choice” who had “unimpeachable integrity”.

“I think he’s probably the best fit for the job, someone of proven and longstanding loyalty to (Suu Kyi) and also a person of considerable standing in his own right,” he told AFP.

Myanmar’s first civilian government in generations will face soaring expectations in the country of 51 million eager to see further changes as it shakes off the shackles of junta rule and international isolation.

“This is an important step in implementing the desires and expectations of voters who enthusiastically supported the NLD,” Suu Kyi said in a statement published on her party website early Thursday.

She is barred by a charter clause that disqualifies anyone with close foreign relatives. Her late husband and two sons are British. Even Suu Kyi’s own MPs had been kept in the dark about the presidential deliberations, with the party fearful of upsetting a delicate political transition in a nation where the military still casts a long shadow.

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