New Delhi (Mizzima) – A joint session of both houses of the Burmese Parliament elected Prime Minister Thein Sein as the 8th president of Burma on Friday in Naypyidaw.
Thein Sein received 408 votes. Thihathura Tin Aung Myint Oo was elected vice president (1) with 171 votes and Sai Mauk Kham was elected vice president (2) with 75 votes.
The procedure called for each division in Parliament to elect a vice president. The Lower House elected Thein Sein, the Upper House elected Dr. Sai Mauk Kham, and the armed forces faction of appointed members of Parliament elected Thihathura Tin Aung Myint Oo. All three are Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP) members.
Win Tin, one of the principal leaders of the National League for Democracy, told Mizzima that he didn’t think the election of Thein Sein as president would do anything positive for political change in Burma.
‘Thein Sein becoming president will not make any significant difference in politics, economic development, national unity or peace and stability’, he said.
He said his view was based on the rampant corruption in the country, the abject poverty of the people and the continuing armed conflicts on the border with ethnic people due to the system of military supremacy that has been exercised in the country for more than two decades.
Burmese analyst Aung Thu Nyein in Thailand told Mizzima that he had similar doubts.
‘When we look back at his history as prime minister, we do not see any significant or brilliant performance. So I have doubts about his performance as president’, he said. He added that his health also could be a factor, because he has a history of heart trouble.
Thein Sein was a colonel on the army general staff when the military took power through a coup in 1988. He was promoted to full general in 2005.
He retired from his military post in early April last year to contest for a Lower House seat in the Zabuthiri constituency in Mandalay Division.
Thein Sein 65, will be eighth [resident of Burma in the post-independence era. His predecessors were Sao Shwe Thaike, Dr. Ba Oo, Man Win Maung, Ne Win, San Yu, Sein Lwin and Dr. Maung Maung.
According to the 2008 Constitution, the term of the president is five years with a maximum two-term limit. The president cannot be a member of a political party, and he must resign from all public service posts. As such, Thein Sein must resign from his current post as leader of the USDP, the junta-backed political party.
Analyst Aung Thu Nyein said that rumors are circulating that Thein Sein’s position as head of the USDP will be assigned to Htay Oo, and other USDP leaders will be Aung Thaung and the current Information Minister, Kyaw Hsan.
Win Tin said that Senior General Than Shwe will remain as head of the military and remain entrenched as the de facto leader of Parliament, although he holds no position there.
‘He is still holding the post of commander in chief of the Armed Forces, and he holds all power in his hand’, he said. ‘He is still influential in appointing the president, convening parliament, and building the USDP party in parliament. I think he will never give up his political platform. They will resolve the political issues of Burma in the future in accordance with guidance given by Than Shwe and according to his will’, Win Tin said.
He said that he doubted that President Thein Sein would have the necessary decision-making authority to engage the NLD in a dialogue of national reconciliation.
According to the Constitution, the key institution remains the National Defence and Security Council, which is comprised of the president, two vice presidents, the speakers of the Lower and Upper houses, the commander in chief, plus four ministers who will be directly nominated and appointed by the commander in chief and totaling 11 members. The key four ministers are defence, home, foreign affairs and border area affairs. The council has the power to grant pardons and declare states of emergency.
‘This council is similar to the politburo in China’, said Aung Thu Nyein. ‘It will control everything, so the members of this council are powerful. Needless to say, the government will be controlled by a single party, the USDP, because of the election results’.
Moreover, according to the Constitution, the president can declare a state of emergency by consulting only with the commander in chief, the defence minister and the home minister, if all council members cannot attend a meeting. The president can declare a state of emergency for a maximum period of one year from the date of issuance of the order.