With Suu Kyi banned, Myanmar mulls over alternative leadership

YANGON: In a ramshackle hospital in Myanmar's largest city, at the end of a corridor milling with patients, sits the man some people believe will be the country’s next president.

Tin Myo Win is the long-time personal physician of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party is expected to win yesterday’s landmark general election.

That position has earned him a place on a list of presidential candidates, some of them improbable.

Even if her National League for Democracy (NLD) wins big, Suu Kyi is barred from the presidency by a constitution written by Myanmar’s powerful military.

It ruled the country for nearly 50 years before a nominally civilian government ushered in an era of faltering reform in 2011.

Suu Kyi vowed on Thursday to run the country from “above the president”, filling the position with a proxy she has chosen but not disclosed, a move that could antagonise the military.

It has also left Myanmar’s voters with a presidential puzzle: If not “Mother Suu”, as she is affectionately known, then who?

An NLD loyalist and former poli­tical prisoner, Tin Myo Win, 64, was one of the few people allowed to visit the Nobel Peace Prize winner during her 15 years as a prisoner of the military.

He seemed bemused at the prospect of being considered president. “My job is cutting and sewing – I am a surgeon,” he said between consultations with patients at Yangon’s Muslim Free Hospital, where he volunteers his services.

But earlier he told the Irrawaddy, a Myanmar news service, that he would accept any offer of the presidency “for the good of the country”.

Myanmar’s legions of Facebook users have already entertained and dismissed the possibility of Tin Myo Win becoming president.

A more likely choice could be former general Shwe Mann, now the speaker of the lower house, or the party’s ageing patron, Tin Oo.

Even if yesterday’s election is deemed free and fair, it will still only elect 75% of Myanmar’s parliament, where a quarter of all seats are reserved for unelected military officers.

On the eve of the election, it is still unclear whether the NLD can win enough votes to form a government and choose its own president, who does not have to be an elected MP.

To get there, the NLD on its own or with allies must win more than two-thirds of all contested seats.

The military-drafted constitution bars presidential and vice-presidential candidates with foreign children. Suu Kyi’s two sons are British citizens.

She said on Thursday that the constitution “says nothing about somebody being above the president”. In fact, it does state that the president “takes precedence over all o­t­h­er persons” in Myanmar.

“But Suu Kyi could be something like Sonia Gandhi,” said Win Htein, a top NLD leader and Suu Kyi confidant. — Reuters

Myanmar , Aung San Suu Kyi , politics , election