After more than 50 years of military rule, on April 1 a president in civilian clothes will be sworn in to the highest office in Myanmar. His name is Htin Kyaw, he is 70 years old and he enjoys the respect of many Burmese — and, setting him apart, the full confidence of Aung San Suu Kyi. She is the real winner of a political drama that has dragged on for years, with the government placing her under house arrest for more than a decade and persecuting the men and women of her party, the National League for Democracy, or NLD.
The gestation of last year’s election has been long and difficult. It began in November when the NLD won a landslide in the parliamentary elections, which, for the most part, were transparent and legal, without fraud or (significant) intimidation. With a majority in parliament, the NLD can therefore afford to be more brazen. They don’t need to fear quite as much the presence of the military, which still holds a guaranteed 25 percent of seats and, therefore, indirect veto power on any constitutional amendments; the constitution can only be changed with more than 75% of the parliamentary vote.
After the victory, Suu Kyi led a long negotiation with the military and minority party to figure out how, legally, she will be able to govern. She cannot be president because of Article 59 of the military’s constitution of 2008, written for her, which bars anyone married a foreigner or has children with foreign passports. Suu Kyi’s late husband is British, and their two sons have British passports.
If her Nobel Peace Prize paved the way for her to govern behind the scenes, now she is paving her own road to the prime minister’s chair, a position that does not exist in Myanmar yet. The premiership would allow her to govern in the open, travel abroad to meet foreign leaders, make decisions and pull the executive levers that, for now, are the exclusive prerogative of the president.