A close friend and confidant of Aung San Suu Kyi has been confirmed as the presidential candidate of Myanmar’s lower house of parliament.
The Nobel laureate herself is constitutionally barred from the top job as her children are not citizens of Myanmar.
But the vote in favour of a loyalist in a chamber dominated by her National League for Democracy brings Suu Kyi a step closer to ruling from the sidelines.
On paper though, it is her candidate Htin Kyaw who is poised to become the head of the first democratically elected government in the former Burma since the army seized power in 1962.
It follows the NLD’s crushing electoral victory in November.
Htin Kyaw runs a charity founded by Suu Kyi and has been a trusted member of her inner circle since the mid-1990s.
Under Myanmar’s indirect system for electing a president, three candidates are nominated – one by the lower house, one by the upper house, and one by the military bloc in parliament, who under the constitution hold a quarter of seats in both houses.
The two houses will come together to vote in a joint session next week, with the winner elected president and the two losing nominees becoming vice presidents.
Suu Kyi’s NLD holds a comfortable majority in both chambers, so it controls both the lower and upper house nominations.
On Thursday, the party nominated Henry Van Thio, as its upper house candidate. He is a member of the Chin ethnic group from the country’s northwest.
The NLD wants Van Thio to represent Myanmar’s myriad ethnic minorities in a national reconciliation government as Suu Kyi seeks to bridge the bitter divisions that are the legacy of nearly 50 years of military rule.
The military has yet to make its nomination public.
The president will pick the cabinet that will take over from President Thein Sein’s outgoing government on April 1, with the exception of the heads of the home, defence and border security ministries who will be appointed by the armed forces chief.