05 February 2011

Myanmar picks junta insider as president

YANGON - Myanmar named a key retired general as president on Friday, as the military hierarchy retained its stranglehold on power in the country's new political system.

Mr Thein Sein, who shed his army uniform to contest controversial elections last year, received 408 votes out of a potential 659 from a committee of lawmakers.

The prime minister and former junta number four had been tipped for the post even before the vote, supporting fears that the regime has engineered the political process to hide military power behind a civilian facade.

A key ally of junta strongman Than Shwe, the 65-year-old became a civilian to contest the November election as head of the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which claimed an overwhelming majority in the poll. One of the president's first jobs will be to appoint a government, and he can be confident of little resistance from a parliament controlled by the military and its cronies, analysts said.

Sources said he was likely to retain his position as prime minister in addition to his new role. A select committee on Friday chose the president from three candidates, all of them members of the USDP, as Myanmar's military, which has ruled the country for nearly half a century, continued its domination.

The two vice-presidents are Tin Aung Myint Oo, another retired top general and Than Shwe ally, and an ethnic Shan, Sai Mouk Kham.--The Straits Times

No comments: