USDP dominates presidential race

Burma’s new president is guaranteed to be a member of the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) after the three vice presidential spots were all won by party members.

Rumours are circulating that current prime minister, Thein Sein, who was today elected as a vice president, will take the top spot in what the Burmese junta has professed will be a civilian government. Under Burma’s constitution, the president must be selected from one of the vice presidents.

The decision is due to be announced on Friday, but a representative for the USDP, Khin Shwe, said that the prime minister was the strongest contender.

“Everyone is speculating that…Thein Sein will become the president, given the fact that he is the current prime minister, has a lot of experience and ideas, and is already familiar with the international community.”

Thein Sein is also known to be close to Burma’s junta chief, Than Shwe, whom state media last week made clear was not running for the post. The close relationship has no doubt contributed heavily to Thein Sein’s chances for the job.

The nomination of the three vice presidents, who also include current First Secretary Tin Aung Myint Oo and USDP representative Sai Mouk Kham, came as no surprise to observers who claim that the make-up of the new parliament, which is dominated by the USDP and pre-appointed military officials, weighs heavily in favour of junta-backed representatives.

Tin Aung Myint Oo was voted to the position by the military contingent of parliament, meaning he effectively faced no competition. Thein Sein won 435 votes in the People’s Parliament (or lower house), while Sai Mouk Kham won 140 votes in the Nationalities Parliament (or upper house).

Thein Sein became chairman of the USDP in April 2010 after quitting his military post along with 20 other officials, including Tin Aung Myint Oo. The 65-year-old was made prime minister in 2007 after scaling the ranks of the junta following the 1988 uprising.

Sai Mouk Kham is the only one of the three not to hail from a military background. Instead the ethnic Shan politician had owned a medical clinic in Lashio, having earned a degree in medicine, and was chairman of Shan Literature and Culture Association.

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