Predicting Myanmar’s next president

Who will take Thein Sein's seat in the presidential palace?

Who will take Thein Sein’s seat in the presidential palace?

Now that the National League for Democracy has revealed its speakers for parliament, determining who will be the next president of Myanmar has suddenly become a lot easier.

On 20 January, a NLD spokesperson told AFP that U Win Myint and Mann Win Khaing Than will respectively lead the Pyithu Hluttaw (House of Representatives) and the Amyotha Hluttaw (House of Nationalities).

Strangely, no media inside Myanmar is making a refined guess.

Their prediction so far focuses around big names such as Thura U Tin Oo, U Win Htein and Dr Tin Myo Win, who are NLD veterans. Other names have also popped up, such as Dr Aung Tun Thet, Dr Thant Myint-U and U Htin Kyaw – all renowned public intellectuals.

In November 2015, I speculated that the new president of Myanmar would be a male NLD member who is an incumbent lawmaker in his late 50s or 60s and proficient in English.

This was based on the NLD’s insistence that the new president will not be from a military background but a devout party member. In this regard, three-time winners –  those who won in the 1990 election, the 2012 by elections, and the 2015 elections – were most likely to be granted senior positions in the executive and the legislature.

In particular, a current NLD lawmaker would be able to work with the military because of his three years’ experience dealing with the military. I also speculated that because of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s international experience, she may opt for someone who had similar know-how, or at least, sufficient fluency in English.

Now that the names of the speakers’ position are known, the possible presidential shortlist is shrinking. And there is no one other than U Aung Kyi Nyunt, who fits my categories.

So what do we know about him?

According to the Amyotha Hluttaw website, he is 65 years old and he represents Magway Region Constituency No. 4 in the House of Representatives. He is a local merchant in his native town of Tat Kone, nowadays part of Naypyitaw territory, and practised law after he obtained a lawyer’s license.

He also holds a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and spent much of his career as a lawyer in Chaungsone township in Mon State. He is an NLD veteran who contested and won in the 1990 election representing the township.

To my knowledge, he is an NLD whip inside the legislature. NLD’s Amyotha Hluttaw lawmakers had to seek his prior approval before they raised any questions or motions inside the House. Initially, he was rumored to be shortlisted as the NLD’s candidate for the Speaker of the Amyotha Hluttaw. His counterparts inside the Hluttaw regard him as a competent lawmaker who can discuss bills articulately, and a daring legislator who can defend or reject any issues.

Looking at this complex situation, it would seem a good bet that U Aung Kyi Nyunt could become the new proxy president of Myanmar.

Chit Win is a PhD scholar at the Australian National University’s Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs.