Myanmar: finally the first elected president

in Asia @en by

For Myanmar’s finally the turning point. After 56 years of military rule, in the country of Southeast Asia took office a democratically elected government, thanks to the victory of the National League of Democracy (NLD) in the last November consultations.

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The first civilian president of the new course is called Htin Kyaw. Initially indicated by the Western media as the simple driver of Aung San Suu Kyi, Kyaw has always been, in fact, the closest collaborator of the NLD leader and has accepted the role of prime minister only in consequence of the constitutional ban that prevents people married into a foreign national to hold the office of prime minister.

Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize and a symbol of the struggle for democracy against the military junta, was married until 1999 with the Briton Michael Aris, with whom she had two children with dual citizenship. The law therefore prevents her from formally assume the powers and responsibilities of the presidency, but the ” Iron Orchid “, as she was renamed during the years of militancy and imprisonment, has already made clear that she intends to govern through the figure of his loyal collaborator . It therefore constitutes a sort of indirect premiership.

Htin Kyak, 69, has vowed loyalty, with its ministers and two vice-presidents, to the people of Myanmar, in front of the Parliament, in a plenary meeting, in the capital Nay Pyi Taw. In the list of new members of the government stands the name of Aung San Suu Kyi, who will deal directly with foreign affairs, education, energy and the Bureau. Just to clarify that all important decisions will pass anyway from his desk.

Three other key ministries, such as defense, interior affairs and border affairs, will remain under the control of the military, which also nominates a quarter of members of parliament and keep the veto power on constitutional reforms. Those inevitable limitations, to ensure a peaceful change of power, was agreed in talks between Aung San Suu Kyi and former President Thein Sein, in power for five years and expression of the military junta.

About San Suu Kyi, symbol of the country, we know practically everything. But who is the new president Kyaw? He and the leader of the NLD have attended high school together and have been since then tied by a strong friendship. He studied computer science in the United Kingdom and Japan, and has always maintained a low profile, being appreciated, once back at home, for honesty and loyalty to the cause of democracy. During the fifteen long years of detention, he was among the few to have access to the prison house of Suu Kyi and, after the liberation, was often seen by his side, even in the guise of a driver. He’s married to the daughter of one of the founders of the National League of Democracy, also Member of the National Parliament, and in the past was involved in the management of the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, a charity whose name is dedicated to the late mother of the Nobel Prize.

In his inaugural speech, the new President Kyaw has referred to the complex challenges facing the country, first of all the need for a cease-fire to end, as soon as possible, to armed conflicts that for decades opposed the central power to several ethnic minorities. Kyaw also stated that the new government plans to introduce constitutional changes, to make the fundamental law of the country in line with modern democratic principles.

This last commitment is certainly the most difficult to achieve because the army, to which the current constitution guarantees vast powers, does not appear willing to permit other democratic changes. But just five years ago, Myanmar was forced to face severe economic sanctions, because it was considered by the international community as an obscurantist military regime, with thousands of political prisoners and the total absence of freedom of expression.

Many things have improved since then, largely through the efforts of Aung San Suu Kyi and her movement. The future, today, appears full of promise to which it is permissible to believe.

 

Luca Marchesini

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