The speaker of Parliament’s Lower House, Win Myint, has resigned his post, it was announced by Deputy Speaker T Khun Myat at a session held in that chamber on Wednesday. Word of his stepping down came shortly after the President’s Office announced that President Htin Kyaw, 71, would be resigning effective immediately.
The rapid sequence of events has led to speculation in local media that 66-year-old Win Myint will succeed Htin Kyaw as Burma’s head of state. Htin Kyaw served as president in a largely ceremonial capacity, with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi effectively acting as the country’s civilian leader through a legislative work-around she engineered in light of the constitutional provision barring her from the presidency.
Speaking to reporters following Wednesday’s surprise announcements, lawmaker Hla Moe of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), who is secretary of the Lower House’s Parliamentary Rights Committee, said the chamber will select a replacement for Win Myint before proceedings to choose the next president take place.
Lawmakers are constitutionally obligated to elect the next president within seven days. The President’s Office statement said it would take place within seven working days.
But first MPs in the Lower House must select an individual to serve as one of what amounts to three presidential contenders, among whom the president will ultimately be selected in a vote by the full Union Parliament. The current senior vice president, Myint Swe, will serve as acting president until Htin Kyaw’s successor is chosen; Henry Van Thio is the country’s “vice president No. 2”, and the two men will round out the trio from which Burma’s next president will emerge.
Acting President Myint Swe was the pick of Parliament’s military bloc in Parliament in 2016, when he and Van Thio came in second and third, respectively, in the Union legislature vote that ultimately put Htin Kyaw in the President’s Office with 360 votes out of 652.
BBC Burmese reported that Suu Kyi would explain Htin Kyaw’s resignation to Central Executive Committee members of the NLD at a meeting of the party leadership on Saturday.
Rumours that Htin Kyaw’s health was ailing have circulated for months, though Wednesday’s announcement from his office said only that he was stepping down to “take a rest.”
On the pages of the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar — a publication normally replete with the most banal of stories covering the activities of Burma’s top officials — Htin Kyaw was last seen in its 14 March issue, when he was photographed meeting with the outgoing Malaysian ambassador.
Win Myint was elected to a seat in the Lower House representing Yangon’s Tamwe Township in the 2015 general election. Considered an NLD stalwart and Suu Kyi loyalist, he was selected to serve as speaker of the Lower House in February 2016.
In announcing it on Wednesday, T Khun Myat did not provide a reason for Win Myint’s resignation from the speakership.