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Presidential election set for 28 March

Lawmakers takes their seats as parliament gavels in for a session on 2 May 2015. (Photo: DVB)

Lawmakers in the Union Parliament will choose on Wednesday from among three men in a secret ballot to determine Burma’s next president.

The upcoming vote was announced by the national legislature’s speaker, Mahn Win Khaing Than, at a parliamentary session on Monday morning.

Acting President Myint Swe and sitting Vice President Henry Van Thio will be on the ballot alongside Win Myint, the former Lower House speaker who resigned last Wednesday shortly after it was announced that now ex-President Htin Kyaw was stepping down. Htin Kyaw resigned unexpectedly “to take a rest from his duties,” an apparent euphemism for health woes.

Elected MPs in the Lower House on Friday selected Win Myint as their pick for vice president and concurrently one of the three presidential nominees, in a landslide vote. He is widely expected to win a plurality of votes on Wednesday.

Before that, however, the agenda for Wednesday’s joint parliamentary session indicates that a team charged with scrutinising Win Myint’s presidential eligibility will report their findings to lawmakers.

Parliament will not be in session on Tuesday, with legislative undertakings taking a pause due to the annual commemoration of Armed Forces Day.

With the National League for Democracy (NLD) holding nearly 80 percent of elected seats across both chambers of the bicameral Parliament, party stalwart Win Myint is the odds-on favourite to come out on top in Wednesday’s vote, and Myint Swe and Van Thio will likely retain their roles as vice president Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.

Htin Kyaw served as a largely ceremonial head of state, with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi effectively acting as Burma’s civilian leader through a legislative work-around she engineered in light of the constitutional provision barring her from the presidency.

Unlike Win Myint, Htin Kyaw had no formal political experience before assuming the presidency and it remains to be seen how the working relationship and power dynamics between the former speaker and the state counsellor will play out, should he be elected president as is expected. It is worth noting that he has been described as a Suu Kyi loyalist and has been with the NLD since its earliest days.