TIME: Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi Has Nominated Her Choice for Proxy President

March 10, 2016 |Simon Lewis | Time

It’s now (almost) official: the icon of Burma’s long struggle for democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi, will not be the country’s next president. But the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who spent much of the 1990s and 2000s confined to her lakeside villa in the former capital, Yangon, looks set to rule the country from behind the scenes, as a drawn out — but still remarkable — transition from military dictatorship continues.

Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), on Thursday nominated Suu Kyi’s close aide — and former driver — Htin Kyaw to be the lower house of parliament’s candidate in a complex presidential selection process over the coming days, the Associated Press reports. The party won a landslide election in November, securing almost four out of every five elected seats in the legislature — enough to make Htin Kyaw the president ahead of a military nominee.

The NLD-dominated upper chamber elected Henry Van Thio as a further nominee, AP said. A member of the Chin ethnic minority, he is expected serve as one of two vice presidents (the other will be the military nominee). His nomination is symbolic for the country’s ethnic minority groups, who make up more than a third of the population. The candidates still need to be approved to make sure they meet the criteria for president; the winner will assume the role of head of state at the start of April.

As expected, the primary criteria for the NLD’s choice appears to have been loyalty to the party chairperson. Htin Kyaw serves as a senior executive at the charitable foundation that Suu Kyi runs in honor of her mother, and has pedigree in Burma’s pro-democracy movement.According to local magazine The Irrawaddy, Htin Kyaw’s father was a renowned poet who was elected as a lawmaker in the 1990 elections — which the NLD won, but the military junta ignored. His wife, Su Su Lwin, is a lawmaker for the NLD in the new parliament, and is the daughter of one of the party’s founding members.

Htin Kyaw, believed to be 70 years old, is expected to play the role of a puppet president, with Suu Kyi pulling the strings.

But many Burmese are positive that such an arrangement can work. “Given that the president and cabinet are ultimately being appointed by Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD leadership, the mechanics of a proxy presidency are not necessarily as complicated as some may make it out to be,” Nyantha Maw Lin, managing director at advisory firm Vriens and Partners in Burma, told TIME.

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