'Watershed Moment' in Burma
Htin Kyaw is first civilian leader in 54 years
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 15, 2016 4:42 AM CDT
National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi casts her ballot for the country's new president in Naypyitaw, Burma, on Tuesday.   (Uncredited)
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(Newser) – Burma's parliament elected Htin Kyaw as the country's new president Tuesday in a watershed moment that ushers the longtime opposition party of Aung San Suu Kyi into government after 54 years of direct or indirect military rule, reports the AP. The joint session of the two houses of parliament broke into thundering applause as the speaker announced the result. Immediately, the state-run Myanmar TV's camera zoomed in from above on a beaming Suu Kyi, sitting in the front row, clapping excitedly, for a live nationwide audience. Htin Kyaw secured 360 votes from among 652 ballots cast in both houses of parliament. The 70-year-old Htin Kyaw, a longtime confidant of Suu Kyi, will take office April 1, but questions remain about his position and power.

Rightfully, the job belonged to Suu Kyi, who has been the face of the pro-democracy movement and who endured decades of house arrest and harassment by military rulers without ever giving up on her non-violent campaign to unseat them. But a provision in the army-written constitution barred Suu Kyi from becoming president (she has two British sons, and those with foreign children are ineligible), and she made it clear that whoever sits in that chair will be her proxy. As the Guardian puts it, she "has made clear she will be 'above the president.'" Still, Htin Kyaw will be remembered by history as the head of the country's first government to be elected in free and fair polls.